The Chicago Bulls are a team that has a lot of pundits scratching their heads.
After they fired Scott Skiles last year, they were actively seeking a coach who could be more friendly to the players and institute a system that could improve the fortunes of a team coming off of a disappointing 33-49 season. Their search began in earnest after Jim Boylan failed to impress the higher ups after taking over from Skiles.
Then, Jerry Reinsdorf managed to do what he does best: He low-balled Mike D'Antoni with a contract offer and watched the former Suns sideline boss sign on with the hated Knicks. He then gave Doug Collins the ring around and shuffled his feet while men like Terry Porter and Rick Carlisle got new jobs.
After a while, Reinsdorf and GM John Paxson finally decided to go with a man with no coaching experience and a cool demeanor that was a direct opposite to the fiery approach of Scott Skiles.
Vinny del Negro came to Chicago and was greeted with a collective "huh?" No one outside of hardcore bucketheads knew who Vinny was, and the team caught a huge break shortly after his hire when they landed the No. 1 pick in the draft. I'm sure D'Antoni has kicked himself more than once for not waiting another two weeks.
As the season has started and del Negro has started to show his true colors, there are many things about his character that seem to fly in the face of what the team really needs.
Vinny seems to be kind of a cool customer. In fact, the picture for this article actually describes him pretty well. He is often seen with a "What do I do now?" look on his face, a look that Bill Simmons has described as the "Art Shell Face". He insists on referring to the team as his "family" and goes out of his way to coddle his team.
Larry Hughes has taken full advantage of del Negro's lack of fire by becoming a locker room distraction, with his repeated antics having a detrimental effect on the rest of the team.
Vinny also lacks an ability to motivate his players, which can be seen whenever Luol Deng has taken the court over the past five games. Deng is playing some of the most disinterested basketball that you will ever see, and for a guy who is making $70 million, you would think that his game would have a little more passion.
In addition to not having any energy, Deng also isn't playing in big-game situations, such as the other night against Miami when he didn't play for the final five minutes of a close contest. His defense used to be his primary asset, but it too has disappeared in recent games. If Deng isn't playing well, then the Bulls will struggle, and it's almost as though del Negro doesn't care.
Finally, del Negro seems to overcoach the team in some critical situations. Against the Heat on Thursday night, he inserted Thabo Sefolosha with less than five seconds left in a tie game. He claimed it was because he liked "Thabo's length", but whatever good his length would do on getting an in-bounds pass into play was cancelled out by the fact that Thabo hadn't sniffed the hardwood for the entire second half.
Needless to say, Thabo threw the ball directly to Dwayne Wade, and the Bulls went on to lose the game on a dunk by Shawn Marion. (His last play as a member of the Heat.)
Even this dunk was riddled with poor execution and coaching, as the Bulls had a foul to give that could have easily given the Heat only two seconds to make a play instead of four. When asked after the game if they were aware that they had a foul to give in the situation, Ben Gordon responded that they weren't.
In a tied basketball game, the players on the court did not know that on an in-bounds pass they had a foul to give. This shows ignorance both on their part and that of the coaching staff. What should have been basketball common sense proved to be another damning piece of evidence as to the ineptitude of the del Negro regime.
With all of this being said, let's get right to the heart of this thing. I am all about giving a coach time to adopt a system and to get players into the system to make it work. The problem that I have with Vinny is that he doesn't seem to have a system.
The team doesn't play as good of defense as they used to, and their offense is better with the addition of Rose (and a spurt of great play from Tyrus Thomas), but overall, the team still looks like one without an identity. The team also clearly doesn't respect del Negro, and it is for these reasons that I think he should be relieved of his duties.
I know that he's a first year coach with a young roster, but the problem with the Bulls is that this is year eight billion it seems like of a re-building process that started when Jordan and Pippen left town in the late 90's. They don't need to keep treading water. They need to improve, and Vinny is not the guy to do that.
I normally advocate patience with all new coaches, but it just feels like all we are getting is a bunch of the same from Paxson and del Negro. John has missed the boat on multitudes of opportunities, and made several bad decisions, including trading LaMarcus Aldredge to Portland for Tyrus Thomas. He also re-signed Deng and Hinrich to ridiculous contract extensions, and has shied away from big trades more than once.
So, my question to the Bulls is this: If the Suns can (reportedly, mind you) fire Terry Porter in his first season, why should we be stuck with the Vinny and Paxy show for the next three seasons? I'd say we shouldn't be forced to, and both of them should take a hike for the good of the team—and for the good of the city.
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