(CBS) Much has been made about first-year Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg’s typically laid-back personality and how that translates to his leading a team that’s struggled to find consistency.

On the sideline, it manifests itself in Hoiberg always showing clam demeanor. Now 620 games (regular season and postseason) into his professional career as a player and coach, Hoiberg still has yet to ever pick up a technical foul in the NBA.

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When it comes to communicating, it often means Hoiberg is direct and up front with players, as he was in a sitdown with All-Star wing Jimmy Butler in December a day after Butler called him out for needing to “coach harder” as the Bulls faced adversity.

As the Bulls have trended downward into a tie for seventh place in the Eastern Conference more recently, Hoiberg’s now pushing harder.

“He’s been even tougher,” forward Taj Gibson said of Hoiberg in practice. “He’s been cursing guys out. It’s been fun.”

Gibson didn’t reveal whom Hoiberg has gotten on, but he did like the intensity coming from the coach.

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“It’s kind of weird, because he’s really just doesn’t get after guys (usually), but lately, he’s been on guys’ tail,” Gibson said. “But it’s been fun, It’s been real fun. I appreciate it. That’s the kind of things we need, especially this morning in practice and shootaround and as far as watching film and different things like that. That’s what we’re going to need. I told him I appreciate it.”

Hoiberg indicated the players are getting on one another a little more lately as well, being a little more vocal. Part of that is because the coaches have utilized portions of practice where they sit back and don’t talk at all themselves, Hoiberg said.

“We’re getting better,” Hoiberg said. “Again, Mike (Dunleavy) helps with that. Mike does it consistently. He’s as consistent as anyone we have on this team. Taj is getting better, Pau (Gasol), I think, kind of took it upon himself to be a little more vocal in film room, in the locker room and in the huddles.”

After losing seven of their previous eight games, the Bulls have won two straight. Chicago (29-26) hosts Washington (25-29) on Wednesday at the United Center, where it may be without Gasol, who left practice Tuesday with flu-like symptoms. The Wizards are 2.5 games behind the Bulls in the battle for the eighth spot in the East.

“We got to get a little nastier defensively,” Hoiberg said. “We’re not hitting guys.

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“We need to do much better with the 50-50 balls. We’re losing that battle pretty much every night right now. That’s go to be a big thing, is the toughness, both physically and mentally.”