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Bulls Fire Vinny Del Negro

by Ricky O'Donnell on May 4, 2010 at 2:04AM


http://www.tremendousupsidepotential.com/img/vdl.jpgWe'll always have 'Kurt', he'll always have marvelous hair.

It almost happened in December, but this time it's for real: the Bulls will hold a press conference Tuesday afternoon to announce the firing of coach Vinny Del Negro. It's a move that will cost Jerry Reinsdorf $2 million of money he probably would have spent on the White Sox. 

While the basketball world knew this was coming, it's going to be interesting to see how the Bulls rationalize it. It's obvious that Del Negro fell out of the favor with Reinsdort, John Paxson, and Gar Foreman - with March's plantar fasciitis-induced saga serving as the symbolic final straw in a relationship that likely deteriorated long before. But will whoever the Bulls throw in front of the media - my guess is it won't be Pax - fess up to that? Of course not.

And this, friends, is where a bit of intrigue builds.

Del Negro learned his fate after a Sunday discussion with Reinsdorf. Here's how the Trib says it went down.  

Sources said Del Negro's talk with Reinsdorf centered on his development of young players, team improvement in targeted areas such as defense and rebounding and assurances from management following Ben Gordon's departure that 2010 free agency mattered as much as the 2009-10 season.
Let's take these one at a time.

Development of young players: Joakim Noah, anyone? When Vinny got here two years ago, no one was sure if Noah would ever become anything more than a rebounder off the bench. Two seasons later, he's the Bulls' second best player, a fringe All-Star, and one of the better centers in the East. Taj Gibson had a solid rookie season, too. And even an organization as oblivious as the Bulls can't possibly pin Tyrus Thomas on Vinny. The team - with lots and lots of help from the player - screwed that up long before VDN showed up on the scene.

Defense and rebounding: In Vinny's first season, the Bulls were 18th in the league in defensive efficiency. This year they finished 10th.

In Vinny's first season, the Bulls were 20th in the league in rebound rate. This year they finished ninth. 

That's improvement, right?

Gordon: Did Vinny decide to let Gordon walk? No - though we can't be certain who actually is calling the shots for the team right now. But put yourself in Vinny's shoes. The organization voluntarily lets go of your second best player to a division rival for zero compensation. This is done so, hopefully, a free agent star can take over the town and will Chicago into the league's elite after the team treads water for a season. Now the tread water part is over. The only problem is that Vinny never got to see the other side.

You could absolutely make the argument that the Bulls owed Vinny another season because of this. 

Even the simple stuff is hard to turn against Del Negro: he leaves town with an 82-82 career record and a pair of playoff series under his belt that range from classic to respectable. Not bad given the roster he had to work with, literally zero prior coaching experience and limited organizational backing.

But, in the end, the reason the Bulls give for firing Vinny really doesn't matter. Del Negro's gone because he challenged Reinsdorf/Foreman/Paxson on some stuff and refused to be the puppet they expected him to be when he was hired. That's pretty much it.

* * *

This post probably comes off as pro-Vinny, but that's not my intention. Anti-Bulls brain trust is more like it. But VDN getting fired is a good thing.

Del Negro was not a good coach and never should have been picked for the job in the first place. I'm glad he's gone, even if there's not an obvious successor waiting in the wings. The fact of the matter is that the team isn't losing anything by losing Vinny. The inmates ran the asylum, for better or worse. It'll be interesting to see how the players treats the next guy, someone who (presumably) actually knows what he's doing. 

Whether the 2010/2011 Bulls were led by Del Negro or Dwane Casey doesn't matter one percent as much as free agency, though. Get Chris Bosh and this team is very good regardless. Completely strike out - unlikely no matter who's coaching - and Chicago is in for another .500-ish season.

But while July 1 will more or less determine everything, the Bulls can't run their next coaching search the way they ran their last, waiting eight weeks and scaring off better candidates before settling on someone who's never coached anything before.

All I ask, Bulls, is this: find the guy you want, and get him. If it's Casey, fine. If it's Byron Scott, OK. Even if it's freaking Doug Collins, so be it. Just choose your guy and get him.

No messing around this time. The stakes are too high.






13 Comments | Leave a comment



Good post Ricky.

I just want to add that if New York ends up hitting a home run this off season in the free agent sweepstakes, I think you have to look back at how the Knicks were able to get their head coaching target in D'Antoni right under Bulls management's noses.

All the while JR was pouting how they never had a chance.

The Bulls didn't have a chance because they weren't aggressive enough.

Hopefully having a big name coach won't be enough to persuade the super free agents away from the Bulls.

If you're Jerry, Pax, Gar and whoever else is calling the shots, do you wait for the Lakers season to end and try get Phil back to Chicago or go in a different direction? I don't think Doug Collins is the right answer and like you said Ricky, none of the other candidates really differentiate themselves. So it may be worth the risk trying to bring the Zen Master back, because he is one of the few coaches out there with enough pull to convince an elite FA to come to Chicago.

I would be shocked SHOCKED if Phil came back to coach for the Bulls as long as Jerry has anything to do with the franchise. But, who knows?

Phil isn't coming back...no way, no how

Absolutely zero percent chance that happens, man. Think of how much they'd have to pay him! The Bulls are 1,000 times too cheap for that ever to happen. Like the idea, though.

But how 'bout this (going along with what RPK said): the Knicks get Phil, the Bulls then go sign D'Antoni. Almost certainly won't happen, but I'd love it.

I don't think it will happen either, but they might as well ask to see if he's interested. Pax has a good relationship with Phil, both having played for him and then being an assistant for a year or so. But yes, they're likely too cheap to make that type of move.

About the Bulls next hire:

I can't say for sure that the Bulls are all that cheap. Granted, they were winning championships at the time, but that doesn't negate the fact that Phil and Michael were at the very top of the pay scale during their last three seasons in Chicago. In fact, Jordan's $30 million dollar single season contract was an unheard of figure at the time. So I won't go so far as to call Jerry cheap, even though his arm was being twisted a little.

The thing that concerns me as a fan, is Reinsdorf's own admission that he would gladly have traded all six of the Bull's championships for a single World Series trophy.

It's rather unsettling when the owner of your favorite franchise professes deeper affection and concern for another team in an entirely different sport. That's not what you want to hear if you're an NBA / Bulls fan.

You can say that Reinsdorf wasn't cheap with Jordan and Phil...but thats only because they are the best player and coach, respectively, of all time. No shit he wasn't going to be cheap with them...but he will gladly be cheap now since there isn't a Jordan or Phil on the market. So ya, he's cheap.

He should take come of Peavy's money and use it on a coach because 'ol Jake isn't helping him win another WS ring.

Any guesses as to where Vinny will eventually land? I'm wondering whether or not another team will take a flier on him next season, or if he'll have to settle for an assistant's position. Then again, the Bulls still owe him for the third year of his contract, so he has the luxury of being able to sit back and more carefully assess his options.

In any respect, he turned out to be better than I expected, (not great, but far from horrendous) and I wish him good luck.

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