Guest post: Coaching is still the biggest problem

Lets hope hes not calling another play for Pargo...

Let's hope he's not calling another play for Pargo...

A lot of fans are confusing and/or conflating some basic issues during these trying times for the Bulls. While every fan hopes for his or her team to make the playoffs, that goal is not necessarily consistent with the objectives of team management and owners. That’s not to say that they don’t want the team to go as far as possible this year, but rather that their prime objective has, for some time, been to acquire a top free-agent during the off-season, and to build a stronger contender in 2011.

So, for example, when fans gripe about the Bulls having traded Thomas and Salmons, they are really missing the main point, as reaching the playoffs was not management’s primary consideration. Also, as Matt has pointed out repeatedly, the Bulls have little chance of beating elite teams with Noah out, and other key players slowed by injuries. Had those trades not been made, the slide might not have been quite as precipitous as it threatens to be, but their presence would not have been able to prevent it.

What I believe has been somewhat overlooked through all the consternation about the trades is the overarching problem facing the team: VDN. When the team was healthy and playing well, and more recently, when the Noah-less Bulls beat some bad teams, del Negro’s weaknesses were overlooked by many. But now, as the Bulls are being exposed by better teams, his weaknesses have (again) become glaring.

Rather than review Vinny’s many faults, let’s look at one aspect of the Dallas game as an example that dovetails nicely with the above point about the Bulls (theoretically) being molded to be more formidable next year.

During a second-half stretch in which they had a realistic chance of reeling in the Mavericks, Vinny chose not only to use Pargo, but to rely on him heavily! Shouldn’t it be obvious to del Negro, as it has become to any alert observer, that Pargo is barely competent as a spot up shooter, let alone an all-around player? (As an aside, in stark contrast to the Pistons’ legendary Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson, I’d submit that Pargo should be nicknamed “Two Sticks”, given how long it takes him to heat up enough to make two shots in a row.)

What was so incongruous (and further damning) about VDN’s use of Pargo, was how little he used James Johnson (FOUR minutes!). Johnson, as any half-serious observer will have noticed, is gaining confidence, and improving fairly rapidly with added playing time. Johnson played well enough in a brief stint during the first half of the game, and was precisely the sort of (healthy) athlete who could have been of defensive service against the likes of Butler and Marion, who were torching the Bulls with easy baskets. And yet VDN chose to rely heavily on a three-guard lineup, including a bad streak shooter who — God forbid — will play no part in the Bulls future, rather than continuing to develop a promising young player who might very well become a valuable contributor.

The Bulls’ management deserves criticism for many moves that they have made in recent years, but even more than any player personnel decisions that have been made, hiring and retaining VDN has been their most insidious and damaging recent blunder. Therefore, more than any draft pick that may result from what is likely to prove to be an otherwise disappointing season, the true silver lining could be — hopefully will be — the hiring of a new coach.

About the author:
Tony C. grew up in Evanston, and cut his teeth on the exciting, early ’70’s Walker-Love-Sloan-Van Lier Bulls. As a pick-up player, he admits to having stuck too long with low-top shoes (Puma Baskets, for the detail oriented), but did belatedly make the switch when the sprained ankles became tedious. Tony’s professional life revolves mainly around buying, selling and managing Thoroughbred racehorses. While he now resides outside of Chicago, he remains an interested, enthusiastic, and at times critical Bulls fan.


24 Responses to Guest post: Coaching is still the biggest problem

    bobbysimmons March 8, 2010 at 6:32 pm #

    Though I like how you liken Pargo to “two sticks,” I think you have to give a rest to the harping on VDN. Let’s blame Pargo’s suckiness on Pargo, and just hope that VDN doesn’t ever give the guy a chance again. As for hopes for this season, it wasn’t exactly a throwaway season evidenced by the fact that the Bulls did not just get rid of Hinrich’s contract. The Bulls/Reinsdorf like any other team/owner want the revenue the playoffs bring, which is nothing to sneeze, so I can say with confidence that the Bulls were actually predicting themselves to be sitting pretty in the 6th or 7th spot, until they realized that they made a huge blunder.

    As for VDN, the reason I appreciate him is that he relates well to the players, except of course to Tyrus. He doesn’t rule with a tight fist like Skiles, and from what I gather he is approachable. He never belittles of talks trash about his players like Skiles would do all the time with Chandler, Thomas, Curry, great way to encourage 18-19 YOs. He knows he makes mistakes at times, but I don’t blame him for most of the Bulls losses, I don’t see him making consistent unforgiveable errors, you must be looking at him through ****-colored glasses. Rather, look at the personnel we have with Noah injured. Can we really expect to defend the paint for 48 mins with Miller and Gibson? Thomas changed shots on the defense end, heck even Aaron Gray would be of way more value than Devin Brown, who never plays anyways. I’d give the Bulls a D on the trades this year. They could’ve kept Thomas and Gray and gotten more for Salmons, yet everyone’s praising them for getting cap space like that was such a difficult task. I’m bitter now cause the Bulls are missing the playoffs.

  2. Anonymous March 8, 2010 at 6:49 pm #

    Evanston love

  3. cliniclysick March 8, 2010 at 7:37 pm #

    If VDN could recognize which combination ofplayers he should use at a particular time and give some underused guys more playing time, they would have less scoring droughts and play better defense. Instead he’s allowing the wrong player(s) to shoot, and they’re all exhausted at the end of the game. With some better coaching, they could still finish with a winning record. But we all know that won’t happen…

    Tony C. March 8, 2010 at 7:38 pm #

    bobbysimmons –

    I mentioned how crucial Noah’s absence is to the Bulls, and I don’t believe that any coach could make up for that loss. However, you’re apparently missing the main point of my post, which is that there are two distinct goals to consider: maximizing this season’s performance, and molding a better team for next year. It is clearly the case that the latter goal is both more important, and the one on which the Bulls (including the coach) should be focusing.

    Not only has VDN been using Pargo too liberally, and arguably against the team’s near-term interests (i.e. winning games), but he is also giving a lot of time to a player who should play no part in the team’s future, at the expense of players who should.

    Cavendish March 8, 2010 at 7:47 pm #

    It’s a widely held belief around the league that NBA coaches make far less impact on games than they do other sports. I really think you’re focused to intently on this issue. Is VDN a great game coach – no. But what insights can you provide us about his roll in player development? I’m not trying to offend but as a regular reader of this blog I’m getting a bit tired of your guest posts. Frankly, they read more like an angry fan. Once, fine – but two posts about how VDN is bad? Do you have any other information than what you see on TV? Have you watched him in practice or are you familiar with how he handles players or his level of knowledge about the game? I’m just a fan, but at least I can tell that the young guys seem to be developing better. I loved Skiles because he was a terrific game coach but he lacked the ability to nurture and develop young players.

    Derek F. March 8, 2010 at 8:23 pm #

    I agree with most of what you said, although I still believe Vinny gets more blame than he should. Are we confusing losing to a top western confrence team to bad coaching?

    I think we can agree that the Mavs are better than the Bulls. We also agree that we’ve struggled without Noah. But we’ll disagree about Vinnys role in the loss. I don’t even think Vinny was the worst of the 2 head coaches.

    Rick Carlisle’s 4th quarter “decision” to allow the Bulls to repeatedly roll the ball to halfcourt after they inbounded which extended the game by 5 minutes. Carlilse kept the Bulls in the game by himself. And he’s a experienced coach, and a person many fans wanted to coach here. But of corse having a good team covers a lot of a coaches deficiencies.

    Should James Johnson have played more than 4 minutes? Yes. Would they still have lost? Probably. I believe he should play more than Pargo. Hell, I believe Joe Alexander should play more than Pargo. And that is a legitimate complaint.

    However, I put more blame on the front office. Draft and player acquisition is a very important aspect and they have been failures at it. There is a deficiency of talent on this team due to their desire to clear cap space. Would we be better with Salmons and Thomas? I’d say yes. Did the trades make us better? No. I understand the purpose of the trades, but you’re not guarenteed to get any max free agent.

    And if we don’t, what happens? Do you trust them to regroup and make the right acquisitions? Do you trust them to hire a coach? I don’t.

    But I hope I’m wrong.

  7. David March 8, 2010 at 9:20 pm #

    Who will realistically replace VDN?

    Byron Scott?

    Avery Johnson?

    Lawrence Frank?

    No thank you.

  8. Tony C. March 9, 2010 at 12:04 am #

    Cavendish –

    No offense taken, but I’ve written three posts, two of which were mainly about VDN. Feel free to skip my posts in the future.

    As far as it being a “widely held belief around the league that NBA coaches make far less impact on games than they do other sports”, I’d point out that it is still a widely held belief among Americans that Iraq had WMDs and posed a threat to the U.S. prior to the invasion. In other words, widely held beliefs are not facts.

    Furthermore, even if that general belief were to be accurate, it would be naïve to think that coaches at the bottom end of the scale would somehow be equivalent to those at the top. I have specifically stated several reasons why I believe VDN to be a bad coach, and you have refuted none of my points. In fact, you yourself believe that he is not a good “game” coach.

    As far as player development goes, I agree that one would learn more by watching practices, etc., and by being on the inside. However, it is quite possible to glean insights from watching players perform in games. To use just one example, Rose remains a defensive liability, and continues to make basic mistakes that should have been corrected by now, such as picking up his dribble before passing (something every high school guard learns). Yes, Rose has improved offensively this season, but a player that talented and dedicated would have been even further along under the tutelage of a better coach.

    Finally, I’m not suggesting that VDN doesn’t do anything right, and the other coaches must bear some responsibility as well. But if the Bulls are to maximize their potential next season, it can and will only happen with a better coach.

    cleansupwell March 9, 2010 at 2:32 am #

    VDN is a dunderhead, your remarks on Pargo and James Johnson were right on. His use of Tyrus Thomas when he returned from his injury was frickin ridiculous. He never should have allowed Noah to play so soon after the All Star break, idiot.

    Tony C. March 9, 2010 at 2:55 am #

    Derek –

    You pose some good questions, and I share your sense of skepticism about the competence of the organization. The glass half-full view is that the Bulls have a damn good core group of young players, and therefore have the potential to become a serious contender with one or two additional pieces. Let’s hope that management exceeds our expectations…

    Rocky March 9, 2010 at 6:41 pm #

    I feel that VDN has done an adequate job this season, especailly given that their best perimeter threat has been Luol Deng. I think if the bulls finish close to .500, then VDN should be allowed to coach this team when they fill their two major holes in the off-season;a consistent low post threat(Which I don’t think Taj is going to be, but he will be a major role player for us) and a consistent perimeter threat. I think unless the bulls could land Lebron, then I’m not dishing out max contracts to Dwayne Wade or Chris Bosh.

    Off-Season moves:
    1. David Lee:10mil, 26yrs old, 20ppg/11.6rpg(5mil cheaper than bosh)
    2. Kelenna Azubuike: 4-6mil,26yrs old, great size at the shooting guard position, shoots over 40% from 3pt range.
    3.Re-Sign: Acie Law, Joe Alexander for depth.
    3. Miss the playoffs and have an opportunity to land either DeMarcus Cousins or Greg Monroe to play the backup center position.

    C-Joakim Noah-sub-DeMarcus Cousins or Greg Monroe
    PF-David Lee-sub-Taj Gibson, Joe Alexander
    SF-Luol Deng-sub-James Johnson
    SG-Kelenna Azubuike-sub-Kirk Hinrich
    PG-Derrick Rose-sub-Acie Law

  12. PTFC March 9, 2010 at 9:04 pm #

    The Bulls are not missing the playoffs. They will find a way to steal couple games in this tough stretch followed by a easier April schedule where they will go on another 7-3 hot streak coupled with the very bottom half of the eastern conference losing games as well. The Bulls then play the Bobcats 2 more times (I believe at home) and if they can win those they an at least an 8th spot is sured up. Regardless, steal a couple games the next couple weeks, have a strong finish in late march and april when the schedule is kinder and at home and being in the weak EC, they squeak in the 8th or even 7th spot.

    If they are #8 and play Cleveland it will be hard to watch the but whoopin that will take place. If they are #7 and play the Magic with Noah back it can be competitive and fun to watch. I just hope the Bulls can atleast entertain me until next season when it will be on.

  13. david g March 9, 2010 at 10:42 pm #

    no rocky. that team sucks. do you really feel that team could win a championship?! i think after this off-season we’re looking for a team to not only win one, but several. i wouldnt call joe alexander and acie law depth and kelenna aint that good either.

    i think this is the obvious thing every chicago guy wants to happen, but i really want wade. sure he has some injuries, but he wont have to create every play anymore. how cool would it be to have 2 true chicagoans playing for the bulls? so here’s my roster for next year:

    C- Joakim, B.Miller (one more year for a lil over the minimum, but keep fishing for depth)
    PF- Taj, Warrick
    SF- Deng, Johnson
    SG- Wade, Flip
    PG- Rose, Kirk

    i admit, the frontline is a little lacking still. but my point is to keep our team mostly intact with a superstar addition. i could also sub joe johnson for wade and then use that salary to get another big.

    p.s – i like vinny cus he is the best dressed coach in the league. David made a good point in saying that there isn’t really a good coach out there for us. except Doug Collins???

    bullsfan76 March 10, 2010 at 12:09 am #

    rocky you are an idiot…. if thats what they do this offseason i think all bulls fans would be pissed…

    inkybreath March 10, 2010 at 12:40 am #

    just had to say ‘here-here’ to David Lee on the Bulls … how fortunate that we look so fortunate compared to the Knicks, management and all … Noah better be using all this free time to help recruit him …

    Max March 10, 2010 at 4:07 am #

    WTF Rocky have you been taking to many shots from Apollo Creed or was it the Russian that has made you retarded!!!

  17. you know my name March 10, 2010 at 4:32 am #

    haha 132 points big surprise

    reggie March 10, 2010 at 6:00 am #

    wait a min lets be real it does matter who we get but it also matters to make sure they fit with derrick not that derrick fits with them he is a true star mabe even superstar, we have him we should build around him just any sperstar might not work must be one willing to share the spot light and the ball with derrick, for if that is not done there will be no peace on the team and derrick will not be happy and he may want out just a thought but you never know he is da bulls present and future no trick about that and the free agency will happen and the bulls will get some players lets just hope they are the right ones to make this team an elite team therefore it will not matter if its vinny coaching he has done a great job with the people he has around him do not second guess what he is doing second guess who might come to our team via free agency even without a major name the bulls are still a tough team to beat healthy that is the good news but bring in a free agent that thinks its all about him not the team and there goes our team there is no I in team got it we can only wait and see hope they make a big splash like the bears they must do the unthinkable and shock the league futher more the bulls might want to try to get a pure outside shooter and a big man rather than a big name might come with a bigger head and bigger problem aka cancer to the team let us pray that help comes to our team in a player not a coach the coach does not play the game the players do therefor who ever coaches will have same issues as vinny so last time let us pray for the right players Peace

  19. Anonymous March 10, 2010 at 3:44 pm #

    yeah rocky youre a dumbas. this is the ideal bulls roster for the season of 10-11.

    center-stoudemire, Noah
    PF- Gibson, Warrick
    SF-Deng, James johnson
    SG-Joe johnson, Murray
    PG- Rose, Pargo

    yeah they’ll have to get rid of Miller and Hinrich to clear up some more cap room, but hey, if it brings Joe Johnson and amare to chicago, why the hell not

    blackfujones March 10, 2010 at 5:24 pm #

    hit it right on the button tony. while i was basking in the beautiful sun in puerto rico i tried not to think about the obvious which was my beloved bulls and this horrific stretch of games we had up against us. VDN doesnt have the experience nor the moxy to outcoach anyone when we’re obviously down in terms of depth of good players. the use of pargo just kills me day after day. he cannot play defense and takes the worst shots yet vdn continues to stick with him. JJ obviously is gaining some confidence so why not give him a ride.

    Ofycial March 10, 2010 at 7:54 pm #

    VDN is not the best coach but he’s not the worst by far. VDN trying a lot of different things this season to see what line up will work. He doesn’t realize that u have to change your line according to what team ur playing. That three guard is not gonna work with a poor rebounding team (poor rebounding w/out Joakim). Vinny used Pargo exactly for what he was brought in for. Instant offense. You have to give a shooter playing time but in Pargo’s case it does take him two or four shots just to make two in a row. VDN needs to work on his player rotation definetly but don’t forget that the Bulls is not a powerhouse team. What do people expect from them? D.Rose needs another 20-26 point a game guy. Joakim needs another rebounder/shot blocker, and low post scorer. (Within the next two seasons you will Joakim’s low post scoring get better…it was getting better until the injury) Loul needs to get tougher but he’s consistent 18-20 pts a game and he’s quick. Loul is still Charlie Hustle.

    Roscoe March 10, 2010 at 8:36 pm #

    Excellent commentary. Interesting that you have the same occupation as “Great Job Brownie” horse trading.

    reef March 10, 2010 at 8:43 pm #

    what about the 7’2 center overseas. I heard he was suppose to be in Chicago for training camp. Saw some highlights from him…doesn’t look like much of a outside-the-post player but he looks like he can defend the bucket and score under the basket….If we can land a wade or j johnson and keep the team we have (rose noah jj gibson continue to develop) along with this 7’2 guy, murray,warrick, alexander,hinrich,and miller on the bench we can be very competitive next year.

    reggie March 12, 2010 at 1:55 am #

    I am mad the bulls have no players on there team that have heart I was watching the game against orlando and once again howard big bum slammed into derrick rose fouling him very hard first time was in chicago they need to send a message to anyone who tries to hurt any of there players let alone derrick not sure but the bulls of old would have slammed him by now once was enough to send the message he was gonna foul him hard now they need to sure they let the whole league know this is not gonna be tolerated at all send a message hit em where it hurts stand up young bulls show some guts and some heart never back down no matter what or who it is makes me sick watching them allow other teams to bully them they are the bulls play like it I am all for boozer coming to chicago now if wade comes great but the bulls need a tough hard nose playing player and that is most definately boozer lets go pax make it happen this year Peace

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