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.”