Chicago‘s long rap sheet for dirty politics added a chapter in the sports section yesterday when the Bulls announced they had fired head coach Vinny Del Negro.
Neither of those distinctions makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside…
But the builder of the James Jordan Boy’s and Girls Club and Family Life Center would be doing Chicago, the NBA, and sports itself another favor if he would fire Bulls vice president of basketball operations John Paxson.
By all appearances John Paxson has the basketball IQ of a Brussel sprout, and the management ability of Dilbert’s pointy haired boss — on steroids (with ‘roid rage).
By now you know about the Yahoo! Sports report of the altercation between John Paxson and Vinny Del Negro.
“Sources said Paxson first grabbed a hold of Del Negro’s tie and seemingly tried to provoke him with two successive jabs into his chest. Paxson was even heard to angrily challenge Del Negro to a fight.
“There were several staff members present, sources said, and assistant coach Bernie Bickerstaff stepped between Paxson and Del Negro and pulled Paxson away.
“Sources said Del Negro did not retaliate, mostly out of fear the incident could be used to void his contract without pay or hurt future career opportunities elsewhere.”
As shocking as this incident may be, Bulls fans know all too well that it is in reality just yet another of John Paxson’s poor decisions since leaving broadcasting to take the reins of Reinsdorf’s team.
- Paxson’s first act as Bull in Chief was to reacquire Scottie Pippen for $5.4 million… to play in only 23 games and average just 5.9 points per game.
- 2003 – 2004: Paxson took a promising young team and converted it into the 2nd worst team (23-59) in the NBA by firing the head coach, trading the Bulls’ best scorer (Jalen Rose) for Antonio Davis, and of course rehiring Pippen.
- 2004 – 2005: The Bulls returned to the playoffs for the first time since the Jordan – Jackson era with the 3rd best record in the Eastern Conference thanks to young contributors Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, Chris Duhon and Andres Nocioni… only to squander their home court advantage and then lose in the first round of the playoffs to the team Michael Jordan built: the Washington Wizards. Go Kwame!
- 2005 – 2006: Speaking of centers, John Paxson insisted that Bulls center Eddy Curry have a DNA test, then traded Curry (and Paxson’s earlier acquisition, Antonio Davis), to the New York Knicks for Michael Sweetney and Tim Thomas — neither of which are still with the Bulls today. By the way, Eddy Curry has yet to miss another game due to a heart related injury.
- 2006 – 2007: Paxson acquired Ben Wallace… and paid $16 million that year for 6.4 points per game. By the way, Wallace now plays for the Pistons for a much more reasonable $1.3 million a year. Also, Paxson passed on an opportunity to acquire Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies because he wanted to hang on to Luol Deng. Can you imagine Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose together, with Kirk Hinrich or Ben Gordon spacing the floor?
- 2007 – 2008: Head coach Scott Skiles was fired for not winning with the roster Paxson screwed up, and the Bulls failed to make the playoffs.
- 2008 – 2009: With only a 1.7% probability, the Bulls won the draft lottery and chose Derrick Rose. However, experienced coaches Doug Collins and Mike D’Antonio declined to come work for Paxson and so Paxson surprised the NBA by hiring Vinny Del Negro, a former NBA player (whose last team was the Clippers) with no head coaching experience at any level of basketball.
- 2009 – 2010: Paxson lost Ben Gordon to unrestricted free agency while getting nothing in return. That was a big loss for the Bulls. Gordon was the first and only rookie to win a 6th man of the year award, and passed Scottie Pippen as the Bulls career leader in three-pointers made.
- Paxson is now looking for what will be the Bulls SIXTH head coach in the SEVEN seasons since taking charge (Bill Cartwright, Pete Meyers, Scott Skiles, Jim Boylan, Vinny Del Negro, and ?).
From the beginning, Vinny Del Negro, who had NO experience as a head coach at ANY level of basketball, seemed to have been hired to be fired when the Bulls could finally lure a name brand head coach.
Del Negro’s lack of experience was painfully evident, causing fans and basketball analysts alike to regard Del Negro as a “dead man walking” in his job almost from the moment the press conference announcing his hire had closed.
Del Negro had plenty of stumbles, such as blowing a 35 point lead at home and losing to the lowly Sacramento Kings this season, but considering injuries to Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, many were surprised by what Del Negro was able to accomplish.
Del Negro would make a fine assistant somewhere and would probably be a solid head coach prospect again in the future with more seasoning.
The Bulls on the other hand, look like slime balls. The Bulls’ front office have disgraced their organization with their despicable treatment of their previous head coach, and all coaching prospects know it.
Consequently, the best thing the Bulls can do now to attract a name brand coach is to fire John Paxson.
Some coaching candidates, such as Larry Brown, might find wearing the GM and Head Coaching hat a bonus.
Meanwhile, the Bulls would be well advised to not look to another rookie coach, such as Mark Jackson, to replace Del Negro.
There are plenty of experienced prospects such as: Doug Collins, Jeff Van Gundy, Avery Johnson, Byron Scott, Lawrence Frank, Kevin McHale, Maurice Cheeks… oh, and Scott Skiles.
Maybe Vinny Del Negro should have been fired, but he should not have been treated the way he was while he was Chicago’s head coach.
From what we can see, for two years Vinny conducted himself with class and did his best in the Bulls’ purgatory. Maybe he proved himself a mediocre coach, I don’t know, but I do what the Del Negro era proved the Bulls to be.
It’s time to clean house, Jerry.