Posted on: May 3, 2010 6:43 pm
Edited on: May 3, 2010 9:18 pm
Vinny Del Negro finally has been fired as coach of the Bulls, putting a merciful end to his rocky two-year tenure, a source with knowledge of the decision confirmed to CBSSports.com.
The decision came Monday after a series of organizational meetings that culminated in a sitdown with Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf on Sunday and the final meeting Monday with GM Gar Forman. As print and broadcast reports trickled out Monday, Del Negro and his staff were hearing the news through the media before officially learning of the decision, which was delivered later in the evening, the person familiar with the situation said.
The Bulls have scheduled an 11 a.m. CT news conference Tuesday to announce Del Negro's firing.
Del Negro, who had one year and about $2 million left on his contract, leaves with two playoff appearances on his resume -- both first-round exits at the hands of East powers Boston and Cleveland. Although he reportedly made the case to Reinsdorf that he and his staff had played a prominent role in the development of young players such as blossoming All-Star Derrick Rose and 2009 first-round pick Taj Gibson, Del Negro could not overcome what some in the organization perceived as neglectful defensive coaching and personal clashes with team executive John Paxson.
Del Negro became embroiled in a physical confrontation with Paxson late in the season after the coach allegedly ignored an agreement among management and the medical staff to limit Joakim Noah's minutes. Noah, one of the Bulls' core players, was recovering from plantar fasciitis. After a game in which Del Negro exceeded Noah's minute limit, Noah missed the next 10 games -- all losses.
Sources said the confrontation with Paxson did not play a role in Del Negro's firing, partly because his dismissal may have been a foregone conclusion anyway. Also, according to a source familiar with the conflict, team management was concerned with the actions of both Del Negro and Paxson, with Reinsdorf apparently pleased with the way Del Negro handled himself in the crucible of pressure that followed.
Del Negro wasn't the first person to draw the ire of Paxson, known for his raw emotions and temper. But once people close to the situation began hearing the word "insubordination" used to describe Del Negro's actions, the end game was clear.
The Bulls will now engage in a crucial search for Del Negro's replacement, given their stated intentions to be a major player in this summer's free agent market. The stakes were raised Monday when Heat president Pat Riley stated that he wouldn't rule out returning to coach the team if a prospective free agent asked him to. It is 2005 all over again in Miami, when Riley came down from the front office to replace then-coach Stan Van Gundy. With enough room to re-sign Dwyane Wade and add another max player and an $8-10 million player, Miami represents the Bulls chief competition in the chase for 2010 free agents.
After pushing the defending champion Celtics to a seven-game series in the 2009 first round, the Bulls fell in five games this year to Cleveland -- the team with the league's best player and best record. Del Negro's coaching methods and tactical decisions were often unpopular, but it is fair to note that he was left with only one player -- Rose -- who could create his own shot after the team lost Ben Gordon to the Pistons as a free agent last summer and traded John Salmons to the Bucks in February. The Salmons deal cleared enough cap space to add a max player to a core that includes Rose, Noah, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich -- but of course, that will do Del Negro no good.
The Bulls reportedly are eager to secure a replacement with previous head coaching experience and are expected to focus their search on Mavericks assistant Dwane Casey, former Nets coaches Byron Scott and Lawrence Frank, former Mavs coach Avery Johnson and former Bulls coach Doug Collins, who already has interviewed for the Sixers' opening. Broadcaster and former player Mark Jackson, who has drawn interest from the Clippers, Sixers, Hornets and Nets, would seem to be a long shot for the Chicago job given how Del Negro -- a former player with no head coaching experience -- didn't work out.
Posted on: April 29, 2010 10:29 pm
As Bulls management continues muddling through end-of-season evaluations with Vinny Del Negro’s status still unresolved, sources close to the process told CBSSports.com that one aspect of the decision on the coach’s future has been decided: Del Negro won’t be needing a lawyer, because the team has decided not to dismiss him for cause over a late-season confrontation with executive John Paxson.
The matter has gone all the way to the top of the organizational chain of command, with Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf weighing in with assurances to Del Negro that he will not be fired for cause, one of the people involved said. Reinsdorf is said to be pleased with the way Del Negro has handled the fallout from the incident, in which Paxson confronted the coach after he allegedly ignored a minute-limit on injured center Joakim Noah.
A second source confirmed that the confrontation between Del Negro and Paxson would have no bearing on a potential coaching change, which would instead hinge on the idea that the team would have a better chance of improving with a new coach.
Exit interviews and internal evaluations are expected to reach a climax next week, when Reinsdorf will weigh in on all aspects of the offseason plan. Del Negro, who has presided over two first-round exits in two years on the job, is said to be quietly pushing for a quick and graceful exit if the team decides to make a change.
People close to the process are wondering how the fallout will affect the combatant who will be staying with the team – Paxson. Sources say the confrontation between Del Negro and Paxson did not mark the first time things got heated between them, a pattern that ultimately could begin to erode support for Paxson within the organization. Bulls officials are not publicly speculating on how Paxson’s status will be affected, saying only that the matter has been “handled internally.”
Long-running friction between Del Negro and Paxson reached a tipping point after a Feb. 26 game against Portland in which Del Negro allegedly ignored an agreement among management and the medical staff to limit Noah’s minutes to the 15-18 range as he recovered from plantar fasciitis. Del Negro played Noah 27 minutes that night, and he missed the next 10 games – all losses.
The situation became even more heated after Noah’s sixth game back against Phoenix on March 30. Del Negro again played Noah 27 minutes that night, another violation of the minute-limit.
While animosity continues to fester from the incident, it is a stretch of labor law to say the least that the Bulls would be able to successfully fire Del Negro and withhold the money owed to him on the last year of his contract. So while a coaching change is fully expected, it won’t be as messy as Del Negro’s second year on the Bulls bench has been.
If and when the Bulls make a change, it is anticipated that Dallas assistant Dwane Casey would receive serious consideration. Casey was a finalist for the job when Del Negro was hired and has more of a defensive background – an area that Del Negro didn’t develop as thoroughly as management had hoped when he was hired.
Posted on: December 23, 2009 2:35 pm
It was business as usual at the Bulls' practice facility in Deerfield, Ill., Wednesday -- as usual as business can be when you're about to fire your coach.
Despite informing reporters that the team would not practice again until Thursday during a three-day break before the next game, some players were on the practice floor Wednesday afternoon, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. And guess who was running the practice? Vinny Del Negro.
At the time those basketballs were bouncing, no decision on Del Negro's fate had been made. But don't read too much into that; the writing is on the wall for an imminent end to Del Negro's tenure as the latest Bulls coach who flamed out around Christmastime.
"It's not a matter of if they fire Vinny," a second person familiar with the Bulls' thinking said, "but when they do it."
After the much maligned Christmas Eve firings of Tim Floyd and Scott Skiles, Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf perhaps has become sensitive to playing Scrooge. That, coupled with the typical paralyzing indecision within certain factions of the organization, has conspired to leave Del Negro twisting in the wind off Lake Michigan. If Reinsdorf resists the urge to fire Del Negro during this three-day Christmas break, the next sensible window for installing an interim coach would be a two-day break between road games (Jan. 6-7) or a two-day break between a home game against Detroit and a road game at Boston (Jan. 12-13).
The way the Bulls are playing -- or not playing -- for Del Negro, that's a long time to go on like this.
That's what happens in the NBA when you try to do your coaching hire on the cheap. Del Negro is in the final year of a two-year deal that pays him less than $2 million annually. He was the consolation prize after Reinsdorf's well orchestrated interview with Mike D'Antoni when he had no intention of paying the former Suns coach the above-market rate he was about to get from the Knicks. So it goes.
In addition to having to pay off Del Negro once they fire him, the Bulls are still paying Skiles about $750,000 this season -- the result of a needless settlement with the current Bucks coach.
Multiple sources have corroborated that Del Negro's likely successor would be assistant coach Pete Myers, the ultimate company guy. In addition to replacing Michael Jordan at shooting guard after Jordan's first retirement, Myers was named interim coach in 2003 after the Bulls fired Bill Cartwright three days before Thanksgiving. Gobble gobble.
Del Negro made it past Thanksgiving, and he might even make it past Christmas. But not by much.
Posted on: February 13, 2009 11:59 pm
PHOENIX -- Discussions are under way within the Chicago Bulls organization about a graceful exit for general manager John Paxson, one that would allow him to step away from full-time duties running the basketball operations.
The Chicago Tribune reported that Paxson still has the support of Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, and that one of the scenarios being considered would have Paxson remain with the organization in an advisory role.
The demotion is not performance-driven, and Reinsdorf continues to stand by his public support of Paxson. Reinsdorf said in a television interview two weeks ago that the season has been "a disaster" and "embarrassing. In the same interview, Reinsdorf said he has "tremendous confidence in John Paxson."
Approached during a break in a meeting of the NBA rules and competition committee Friday, Paxson declined to discuss his future with the Bulls. The New York Post reported earlier Friday that Paxson would step down after next Thursday's trade deadline.
Posted on: January 31, 2009 1:54 pm
From the master-of-the-obvious department: Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf did a Chicago TV interview Friday morning and called this season "a disaster" and "embarrassing." But he vowed, "It will get better."
A crucial point in the interview, a full transcript of which is available here: When Reinsdorf was asked if it would get better with the same people, he launched into a vehement defense of general manager John Paxson.
“When you have a team that’s not performing, it’s an organization failure," Reinsdorf said. "You win and you lose as an organization. But if there’s one person that is not responsible for what’s going on right now, it’s John Paxson. I have tremendous confidence in John Paxson. He’s really one of the best people that I know. He’s a great general manager and a great judge of talent. I just worry that he not be too hard on himself. He takes all of this very, very seriously.”
So do Bulls fans, I bet. And based on that comment, Bulls fans have even less reason to believe that things will get turned around with this lost franchise.
If it's not Paxson's fault, and it's not Reinsdorf's fault, then you can't fault Vinny Del Negro for defending himself in response to Reinsdorf's comments. If Paxson is safe, then the Bull's eye must be squarely on Del Negro's chest.
"Managing expectations is the hardest thing in this business," Del Negro told reporters in Sacramento before the Bulls beat the Kings 109-88 Friday, their first victory at Arco Arena in 12 years. "They didn't win 60 games last year. They didn't have a rookie point guard. They didn't have the injuries we've had."