Sources say the Vinny Countdown Clock is ticking…

According to Chris Broussard of ESPN The Magazine: “The decision to fire head coach Vinny Del Negro has already been made, according to sources with knowledge of the Chicago Bulls’ thinking. The fact that the Bulls’ front office has not been able to settle on a replacement is the main thing keeping the embattled Del Negro employed, the sources said.”

I know this is all uncomfirmed…but is anybody really surprised? Vinny always was the “Wet Floor” sign of NBA head coaches. Unless he made some serious magic happen, he was hired to be fired.

Apparently, there was some talk about having John Paxson, Chicago’s executive vice president of basketball operations, take over as coach, but Paxson wisely opted against that idea. Bulls management seemingly doesn’t want to go with assistant coaches Bernie Bickerstaff or Pete Myers, which leaves…who exactly?

There are several well-known coaches still available, including Avery Johnson, Byron Scott, Doug Collins, Jeff Van Gundy, Lawrence Frank and Sam Mitchell. Honestly, I’m not particularly excited about any of those guys, especially Frank and Mitchell. My first choice would be Van Gundy, because his teams play rugged defense and there’s always a chance he’ll get dragged around the court on somebody’s leg. Scott would be my second choice, with Johnson coming in a very distant third.

It might be easier to select a head coach if Chicago’s front office could decide on a team identity first. Should the Bulls take advantage of Derrick Rose’s innate abilities and become a running team, or should they cover up their offensive deficiencies by thinking defense first?

It seems like Vinny’s biggest problem (among the many) is that there is no specific focus on what the team should be or work toward becoming…hence the “we need to run, no we need to rebound, no we need to run” mixed messages. Say what you want about Scott Skiles, but he chose to focus on defense and hustle plays, and it worked until the players got tired of being directed around at the end of Skiles’ cattle prod. (“Why should we have to work so hard? We’ve already proved how good we are!”)

So which will it be: choose the coach and let him shape the team, or decide what kind of team you want and then select the coach who can make it happen?

Update! Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald says not to expect a move anytime soon: “For now, the Bulls are surely discussing future coaching candidates. They’d like a player-friendly coach, so that probably rules out Avery Johnson and Jeff Van Gundy. Lawrence Frank, Byron Scott and Kevin McHale figure to be possibilities. Almost no chance Doug Collins gets involved again. But it’s wide open right now and the established coaches tend to shy away from taking over at mid-season. That’s another reason they’ll try to keep Del Negro.”

9 Responses to Sources say the Vinny Countdown Clock is ticking…

  1. tc643@hotmail.com'
    Tony C. December 28, 2009 at 6:42 pm #

    Fair question, but it really shouldn’t be binary. In other words, if the organization is at all competent (questionable), then it should already have some well-formed ideas of what direction it wants to head. On the other hand, a new coach should definitely be involved in forming those ideas.

    Given how adrift the team has been this year (mainly, but not solely because of VDN), I’d argue that the best available coach (van Gundy for sure) should be solicited. After all, what good will it be to have a cogent plan without a good coach to execute it?

  2. mjlynch2@gmail.com'
    Mike Lynch December 28, 2009 at 8:40 pm #

    Is it possible to hire away an assistant coach from another team mid season? If the Bulls want to go that direction, there are some good candidates, including Mike Budenholzer, who is Gregg Popovich’s protege, and Elston Turner, who is Rick Adleman’s number one assistant and a former Bull.

    My opinion, however, is that the Bulls should get someone with head coaching experience. Byron Scott’s 121-63 destruction in last year’s playoffs (at home) scares me, but he has coached kidd and paul successfully. And maybe being fired in New Orleans helped him straighten out some of his shortcomings. Ultimately I’m with you, Van Gundy is my favorite candidate. I feel like a guy with competence and credibility will allow the players to really loosen up and play their game.

  3. sean@rmeg.biz'
    Pharaoh December 28, 2009 at 9:31 pm #

    So much dysfunction with this team. Paxson looks burned out and Gar Foreman may be in a bit over his heads considering the need to execute in Free Agency this upcoming offseason.

    Furthermore, VDN hasn’t come out and demanded he be fired, which leads me to believe they’ll reshuffle things before the weeks end. VDN has had success in the front office, and the Bulls could benefit from his experience there. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s moved upstairs and a mid-tier coach is brought in. While Van Gundy is the best available, his price tag is probably too rich for Reinsdorf’s blood. I like Scott, but he could probably use some downtime to recharge before jumping back into the mix. Especially considering the task at hand here.

    My gut tells me the Bulls will bring in Sam Mitchell. He’s won COY, been a consistent 45+ win, won’t be too pricey and has a good established relationship with Chris Bosh, the FA everyone in basketball circles are whispering the Bulls will likely pursue.

  4. detroitmurderdog@gmail.com'
    Detroit Murder Dog December 29, 2009 at 2:45 am #

    No way Van Gundy gets hired. He is too much of his own person and Jerry and his abysmal front office (i.e., Pax and Gar) need someone who will not make waves (i.e., call out their incompetence). I had some hope that this team would figure it out, but that hope is long gone. The fish stinks from the head. I wish Reinsdorf would sell this team.

  5. leprecon529@yahoo.com'
    Wes December 29, 2009 at 8:32 pm #

    “A strong run by the Bulls, who beat New Orleans Saturday night after the return of Tyrus Thomas from a broken arm, could delay Del Negro’s eventual firing, but there is practically no chance he would coach the team beyond this season.”

    Broussard = terrible journalism. Read his piece carefully and you’ll learn VDN may be coach through the end of the year, or even beyond. His firing MAY OR MAY NOT HAPPEN!!!! That’s a scoop!! Christ. That’s like those FBI profiler’s who say the killer may be married or single, childless or with kids, young, possible middle-aged, even older, loner or gregarioous and active in social groups. Then no matter who gets arrested it’s “Aha!!Just like I said.”

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