Sir Charles: “Give Vinny some credit.”

During an appearance on “The Waddle & Silvy Show” on ESPN 1000, Charles Barkley gave mad props to — wait for it — Chicago Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro. You know, the same guy who was put on a Death Watch back in December.

Said Sir Charles: “Vinny has done a good job. I couldn’t understand why they were trying to [throw] him under the bus. The truth of the matter was Derrick Rose was not playing well [early in the season]. They say he was injured, so I give him a pass on that, but the reason the Bulls weren’t playing well was Derrick Rose wasn’t playing well. I don’t think it was fair they were thinking about firing Vinny. Let me preface this by saying Vinny is a friend of mine, so I’m a little biased, but Vinny did not deserve to get fired.”

Seriously? Seriously.

Added Barkley: “Give Vinny some credit. I mean, they’ve done a good job. They could have cracked under pressure, because I tell you, I’ve been around teams when there are a bunch of trade rumors and thinking about the coach [getting fired], and the team packs it in and folds. So give Vinny some credit. He’s done a good job.”

You know what? As usual, Chuck has a point. Although I’m not ready to start campaigning for Del Negro as Coach of the Year, and I won’t scribbling “Vinny and the Bulls 4 Ever” on my Trapper Keeper any time soon, the reality is this: Vinny really has done a pretty good job all things considered.

Remember, Del Negro had his head on the block last season when Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf declared Chicago’s season “a disaster” and “embarrassing.” The Bulls responded with a late-season push into playoffs, where they nearly dethroned the defending champion Boston Celtics in one of the greatest first-round postseason series of all time. The Bulls endured another slow start this season, thanks to the loss of leading scorer Ben Gordon, injuries to key players (Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich and Tyrus Thomas), and, of course, a schedule that was front-loaded with difficult road games.

But, as I’ve noted in some of my game recaps, Vinny has made some key adjustments that turned things around, the biggest of which has been starting Kirk Hinrich at shooting guard. That gives the starting lineup two playmakers and shifts Kirk onto the opposing team’s best backcourt player…which frees up Derrick Rose to expend most of his energy on the offensive end. And considering Rose has been playing All-Star basketball lately, it’s hard to argue with the results.

But more impressive has been the Chicago’s transition to a defense-first team. Last season, the team was 18th in Defensive Rating. In December of 2008, they gave up 105.5 PPG, and they surrendered about 104 PPG between February and March of 2009. The Bulls were basically beating teams by outscoring them, which is a double-edged sword in team sports. Especially for teams like the Bulls, who lack an inside scoring threat and therefore live and die by the jump shot.

Vinny preached defense to the press all summer, and it looks like he meant it. The Bulls currently rank 1st in Blocks Per Game (6.5), 2nd in Opponents Field Goal Percentage (.436), 4th in Opponents At-The-Rim Field Goal Percentage (.564), 7th in Opponents Turnovers (13.5), 7th in Defensive Efficiency and 8th in Opponents Three-point Percentage (.341). Believe it or not, the Bulls are an elite defensive unit.

That’s a pretty major defensive transformation.

And remember: the Bulls recently became the first team in NBA history to ever beat five straight winning teams on a single road trip. Not even the great Chicago teams of the Michael Jordan era accomplished that feat. If Del Negro was the bumbling, incompetent boob many people have made him out to be, that simply could not have happened.

All that being said, I’m still not 100 percent sold on Vinny as Chicago’s Coach of the Future. But Barkley is correct. After all the bashing that’s been done, Del Negro deserves a little credit for the Bulls’ success.

Speaking of credit for the Bulls success, Charles also thinks Joakim Noah should be getting some. Like, in the form of an All-Star nod.

Said Chuckles: “I was a little disappointed that Noah did not make the All-Star team. Me and Doug Collins were pushing for Noah. Noah’s become one of my favorite players to watch, and I was really pulling for him to make the All-Star team. Because he’s been the most consistent player all season long for the Bulls. Derrick Rose is clearly their best player and plays well, but Noah’s been their most consistent player all year, and I wanted him to make the All-Star team.”

I couldn’t agree more.

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14 Responses to Sir Charles: “Give Vinny some credit.”

    thirdsaint February 2, 2010 at 4:33 pm #

    I know Noah feels good about getting props from Barkley. No doubt Sir Charles loves Noah’s energy and passion for the game. He outworks so many players despite not being as big or strong as most.

    I think we were all calling for Vinny’s head and rightly so. He has made some good moves with the roster and the defense is very much improved as you said. I’d still rather the Bulls get a veteran coach who can take them to the next level as I don’t think Vinny is it. I think he may be a good coach for developing players and giving them time (something Skiles wouldn’t do) but he won’t take them to the promised land. Plus I have to think big name FA’s will want to play for a proven coach more than a guy who is still raw.

    Matt McHale February 2, 2010 at 4:43 pm #

    thirdsaint — I agree. I truly believe that Vinny has improved and is doing a decent job under the circumstances. But that doesn’t mean I want him coaching the Bulls next season. I’d also like to see management bring in a veteran coach who can build on what Vinny’s started…and establish the things he hasn’t started.

  3. PTFC February 2, 2010 at 6:01 pm #

    I think posters on ths blog has missed the greater point of this blog and what Barkely was saying. The same way you guys didn’t give Vinny much of a chance and wanted him fired (in a situation with a team where even Phil Jackson would have struggled) are now admitting you may have been wrong. Well, is there no lessoned learned? Do not jump to conclusion? Do not be premature on your judgements? But you guys still have no faith in him the rest of the way. He has the rest of the season to prove it, give him that before you start crying “off with his head (after this season is over)” with out waiting and seeing what he and this Bulls team will do the rest of the year. Give any coach favorable conditions (healthy players, an allstar/future superstar, future allstar/most improved player, depth, an overachieving rookie, etc) and the coach will most likely do a good job. Vinny did not have this the first part of the season. The moment Vinny takes this team to the 5th-6th seed, gets to the second round, grabs a superstar FA in the off-season and becomes a title contenders then everyone is going to be saying how great he is. Not saying all this will happen but let it play out before you say “but he is not the coach of the future for this team” or “he is not capable of taking the bulls to he promise land”. Really? You know this after 1.5 years a guy has been on a job? Everyone must be carrying around a fortune telling crystal ball these days, i must have missed out :-(

    DMBhawki33 February 2, 2010 at 6:23 pm #

    Noah did deserve an All-Star Bid, he is the Bulls emotional leader. If his name isn’t in the top two for most improved, I will be ashamed. He is averaging a double double for christ sakes. This was a guy that all but quit his Rookie season, and the first half of last year (I wrote about that here,

    Big ups Noah!

    Boppinbob February 2, 2010 at 6:48 pm #

    I remember when a guy named Phil Jackson became the Bulls head coach. People thought it was a big mistake. He didn’t have enough experience to handle MJ. Mgmt and VDN have begun to lay the foundation for a championship, team DEFENSE. I say give him time to prove himself. He is already starting to do that and the results are apparent.

    thirdsaint February 2, 2010 at 7:56 pm #

    You know, I’m kinda glad Noah won’t be in the All-Star game. I think he’ll make it next year so long as he keeps it up but this year he’ll need the rest to heal up.

    PTFC: As for Vinny, I’d have more faith in him if I didn’t hear the things I did back in December when things weren’t looking good. Players were saying he didn’t call any plays and he has shown he doesn’t know how to adjust. Could he be a great coach some day? Maybe, but I don’t want to wait around to find out when we have a big summer coming up and the window of opportunity is at its widest. If we had an option to get a more proven, veteran coach, do you mean to tell me you would stick with Vinny?

    rustumt February 2, 2010 at 8:07 pm #

    PTFC – I completely agree with you!! Great leaders are not made overnight, but rather through learning from their struggles! I’m not saying Vinny is perfect, but give the guy a good run! I also think people tend to forget that our first half schedule was RIDICULOUSLY tough!.. Go BULLS!!

    Boppinbob – there’s actually a huge difference between Del Negro and the Zen Master!.. Del Negro literally had no courtside experience! NONE! Whereas PJ experienced some success in the CBA and was already serving as an assistant for Doug Collins! The funny thing is Doug actually paved his way out of town, by getting PJ to call more plays during timeouts, and Krause noticed the players were very comfortable with him.. Anyway, sorry for side tracking! Lol!

    Tony C. February 3, 2010 at 12:05 am #

    “The same way you guys didn’t give Vinny much of a chance and wanted him fired (in a situation with a team where even Phil Jackson would have struggled) are now admitting you may have been wrong.”

    No such admission hear. VDN remains a very bad coach, and I’m not going to repeat the litany of his many weaknesses. I don’t deny that he has become LESS BAD, but he is nowhere near being a good coach. The Bulls have always had a talented team, and they happen to have gelled recently. Yes, VDN has made some positive adjustments, but when you start from a deep hole, there isn’t anywhere to go but up.

    Frankly, the ones who have been notably silent are those who insisted that trading Gordon would be a disaster. How’s that worked out?

    Tony C. February 3, 2010 at 1:31 am #

    Should have read: “No such admission here.” Hear?

    Lance February 3, 2010 at 2:40 am #

    Playing Hinrich at SG wasn’t hard to see as being a good thing to increase if you looked at the lineup data. This year’s or last season’s. It should have happened sooner and perhaps even bigger minutes.

    Tony C. February 3, 2010 at 2:59 am #

    Case in point: roughly 2:30 to go in the third quarter tonight, VDN calls a timeout. The Bulls come out and immediately turn the ball over. This is absolutely typical – and damning – of del Negro’s quality as a coach. Timeouts crystalize coaches’ decision making; they are much like chess moves, in that the coach has far more control over that single play than the vast majority of (more spontaneous) plays. The Bulls are typically terrible out of timeouts, underscoring just how bad a tactician VDN is.

    Oh, and after that timeout, the Bills went from down six or eight to down eighteen in a matter of two minutes. VDN sat and watched the Clippers’ momentum building, rather than calling another timeout to stop the bleeding.

    letsgobulls_24 February 3, 2010 at 5:22 am #

    “I’m pleased to announce to you the newest member of the Chicago Bulls franchise, new head coach Jeff Van Gundy!” (crowd explodes in cheers, clapping and a standing ovation)

    Hahaaa. I kinda like the guy so I would like to see him come to Chicago.


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