(CBS) Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg has long been rumored to be the Bulls’ top candidate if their front office’s contentious relationship with coach Tom Thibodeau leads to a parting of ways at season’s end, and on Tuesday, Hoiberg’s boss gave the strongest indication to date that he wants to coach in the NBA.

“He has always said from day one that his lifelong goal has been to coach in the NBA,” Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard said, according to the Ames Tribune’s Travis Hines. “It’s for him to decide when that part of his life he wants to activate.

“Now it’s just strictly a decision for him and their family personally, not what he wants to do because he’s made that clear. (The NBA is) what he wants to do. It’s a matter of when he wants to do it.”

Hoiberg’s been coaching the Cyclones since spring 2010 but has an extensive NBA experience, with a 10-year playing career preceding a four-year stint in the Minnesota Timberwolves’ front office.

Hoiberg has several connections to Chicago. For one, he played for the Bulls from 1999-2003. Most significantly, he’s also close with Bulls general manager Gar Forman, who was an assistant at Iowa State in the 1990s when Hoiberg played there.

Yahoo Sports NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski reported last week that a Thibodeau exit is “inevitable” and that Hoiberg would be “management’s choice” to replace him as coach of the Bulls.

Hoiberg is currently recovering after undergoing open heart surgery, which will surely be a factor in his decision on where his coaching future lies.

Adding intrigue to the coaching carousel rumor mill was the New Orleans Pelicans’ firing of coach Monty Williams on Tuesday. Thibodeau was a finalist for the New Orleans job back in 2010, with ESPN reporting then that the then-named Hornets offered him the job before Thibodeau chose the Bulls. The vacant New Orleans job figures to be the most appealing one on the market, with Anthony Davis having blossomed into a superstar and the Pelicans coming off a 45-win season that saw them get swept by the Warriors in the first round of the playoffs.

The Magic also reportedly have interest in Thibodeau should he leave the Bulls.

Meanwhile, Thibodeau has his Bulls continue their quest for a championship run, as they face the Cavaliers in Game 5 on the road Tuesday evening with the series tied at 2-2.