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: April 14, 2010 6:53 pm
If Vinny Del Negro wasn’t doomed already in his effort to keep his job as the Bulls’ coach, it’s hard to imagine him surviving this.
Del Negro is at the center of a firestorm over allegedly ignoring an agreement among the medical staff, coaches and management to limit Joakim Noah’s minutes late in the season while the team’s center was struggling with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. The tipping point was a Feb. 26 game against Portland, when Del Negro played Noah 27 minutes despite an agreement to limit his minutes to 15-18, a person familiar with the situation told CBSSports.com. That was the last game Noah played before missing 10 games with a flare-up of the injury. The Bulls lost all 10 games, putting their playoff hopes – and Del Negro’s job status – in a precarious state.
According to an account published first by Yahoo! Sports, the long-running friction between Del Negro and management accelerated into a physical confrontation between Del Negro and executive vice president John Paxson after a game against Phoenix on March 30. After playing between nine and 17 minutes in his first five games back from the 10-game absence, Noah again played 27 minutes in that loss to the Suns – another violation of the agreed-upon limit, sources said. Conflicting accounts have followed as to whether Del Negro or Paxson was the aggressor, but they miss the point: If Del Negro ignored team orders to limit minutes for an injured player, he could be fired for insubordination – bringing an end to his rocky, two-year tenure.
When asked Tuesday night about the report of an altercation with Paxson, Del Negro referred to the matter as “internal.” Team spokesman Tim Hallam called it “an organizational issue.” A person familiar with the situation declined to comment on whether lawyers have been retained on either side.
Noah’s limit was gradually increased, and Del Negro was involved in the decision as well as the medical staff, assistant coaches, Paxson and general manager Gar Forman, according to sources. Yet the issue surfaced again Friday night in New Jersey, when Del Negro apparently didn’t know whether he had permission to extend Noah’s minutes late in a game that was critical to the Bulls’ playoff chances. Previously, he was permitted to make an exception if he needed to use Noah beyond his limit for one possession to win a game. According to sources, Del Negro sent assistant coach Lindsey Hunter to personally ask team officials if he was allowed to play Noah any more that night against the Nets. But the request didn’t come until after regulation and before the first overtime, a person familiar with the matter said. The Bulls lost in two overtimes to the worst team in the NBA. Now, Chicago has come down to the last night of the regular season in its bid to make the playoffs. A win by the Bulls Wednesday night in Charlotte, or a loss by the Raptors at home against the Knicks, would clinch the eighth playoff spot in the East for the Bulls – and extend Del Negro’s nightmare a little longer.
Did Del Negro put his own self-interest before the health of one of the team’s core players? Is someone looking for an excuse to fire Del Negro for cause, and thus save the Bulls from having to pay Del Negro the final year of his contract – since it’s widely assumed the Bulls will be looking for a new coach anyway as a way to lure potential free agents?
I’m not a lawyer, and it appears that’s what’s going to be needed to sort this out. A warning to both sides: Lawyers don’t put limits on billable hours.
Posted on: December 22, 2009 12:26 am
Just when things began looking exceedingly grim for Vinny Del Negro last week, all indications from the Bulls' front office were that the team was in no hurry to fire him.
Minutes before the Bulls and Kings tipped off Monday night, I spoke with a trusted front office executive familiar with the Bulls' plan, and he said it was status quo. Rather than push the panic button too early and send the surrender message to the players, GM Gar Forman and advisor John Paxson were telling confidants that they preferred to give Del Negro until mid-January to prove this season was going somewhere.
This season went somewhere Monday night, all right. Somewhere really, really bad -- a point of no return for Del Negro.
The Bulls blew a 35-point lead and lost to Sacramento 102-98. They were outscored 54-17 in the final 16 minutes of the game. Not only that, Del Negro's rotation was only seven deep on the first night of a back-to-back. The Bulls, losers of 14 out of the last 20 games -- losers in every sense of the word -- will be in New York on Tuesday night to play the Knicks, who have won six of nine.
It's not advisable to change coaches in the air on the way to the second night of a back-to-back, with no practice time in between. In this case, it's hard to argue the alternative is any better.
With one catastrophic meltdown, Del Negro's window went from mid-January to Christmas Day. (Historical note, as pointed out by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: The Bulls fired Scott Skiles and Tim Floyd on Christmas Eve. Ho, ho, ho!)
The rationale behind giving Del Negro more time has been the message it would send to the players. The only logical choice on the bench is veteran coach Bernie Bickerstaff. If the Bulls turned to Bickerstaff before Christmas, the players would see that as a surrender flag.
But the players did a pretty good job of running that symbolic fabric up the flag pole Monday night.
I've seen a lot of coaches in a lot of sports tip-toeing around before getting fired. When I was in Chicago last week, I noticed how Del Negro was using injuries as an excuse and lamely praising his players' effort -- as if they'd respect the fake kudos. On Monday night, Del Negro took the next step in the "Coach About to be Fired Handbook:" He went after the players.
"This one stings, but players win games," Del Negro said. "You have to execute. We kind of got a little bit complacent there. But what are you going to do? Put your head down and feel sorry for yourself?"
No. You fire somebody. For example, the coach.
But given the organization's qualms about going with Bickerstaff -- which would signal that the season's over -- it's time to think outside the box. It's worth wondering whether there's another option at Forman's disposal. That would be the former GM and current executive vice president, Paxson.
"John's got a great eye for the game," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said last week when his team touched down in Chicago to collect another victory. "And he works really hard. He's a hard-work guy."
Firing the chef and appointing the guy who bought the groceries is the new fad in the NBA. The Hornets did it, sending GM Jeff Bower into the trenches to replace Byron Scott. The Nets did it, handing the keys to Kiki Vandeweghe -- and, ironically, former Bulls assistant Del Harris -- after throwing Lawrence Frank overboard.
Why not the Bulls? Why not Paxson, who relinquished the day-to-day GM duties to Forman last summer?
"I doubt it very much," said a person familiar with the Bulls' situation, citing how Paxson's relationships with certain players are frayed. But at least he has relationships with certain players. How can Del Negro command respect in the huddle -- and vice versa, frankly -- after what happened to this team Monday night?
Another option that has been mentioned is Frank, who was fired by the Nets and, as such, would come cheap since he's collecting $4 million of Bruce Ratner's money for the rest of this season. But this is probably not the best situation for either one. Frank will be looking for a clean slate after starting the season 0-16. The Bulls will have a hard time getting a spark out of hiring a coach who hasn't won a single game all season.
None of this is ideal. None of it was part of the plan. The Bulls will be major players in free agency next summer, and there's no appetite for paying Del Negro to go away and committing to a new coach before the direction and makeup of the team are known.
But sometimes, these things work themselves out. On Monday, the Bulls stopped playing.
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: February 13, 2009 11:44 am
Edited on: February 13, 2009 9:22 pm
PHOENIX -- Ready to get the All-Star coverage going. Nope, not much going on. Just reports that Bulls G.M. John Paxson will resign after the trade deadline and that Suns president Steve Kerr may replace Terry Porter as coach.
If the reports are accurate, too little, too late on both counts.
Anyway, Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf is shooting down the Paxson report in the New York Post, calling it "not credible." The Post also had the item on Kerr.
Just wondering: If your G.M. is resigning, wouldn't you want him to resign before the trade deadline, so he doesn't make any more bad trades?
We'll be following up on these and other issues throughout the day. There's also the trade rumor of the day -- the Nets and Mavericks discussing a deal that would reunite Jason Kidd with Vince Carter. Interesting. Will let you know about that one.
UPDATE: I can confirm with my own eyes that Paxson is still on the job, having seen him walking around a downtown hotel where NBA business is being conducted. He politely declined to discuss his job status. More on that as it unfolds.
As for the Mavs-Nets situation, "nothing going on right now" on that front, a person with knowledge of the talks said.
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."