Looking Back on John Paxson: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

John HatelakContributor IApril 15, 2010


When John Paxson took over in 2003 the organization was a mess. They had circuses to draw free agents, they moved two productive players in Brand and Artest in favor of two unknown project high schoolers, they hired fishing buddies for coaches, and of course the all time boobery breaking up the Champs to prove organizations win Championships. 

Those are just some of the highlights. So when he took over it was like a breath of fresh air. An intelligent informative, and credible General Manager to pull us out of basketball hell! He did not disappoint, bringing back credibility to the league as once again a viable franchise resurrected from the insignificance, and apathy of a fan base, and national perspective. 

A few good drafts, hiring a real coach in Skiles, and presto! A competitive franchise. Then the decision to sign Big Bad Ben Wallace.



The thing I could point to the most to the biggest reason for the most recent collapse with this franchise is the Ben Wallace debacle. Especially considering the way Skiles liked to handle the team as a disciplinarian, and hold players accountable for their actions. 

Now there were red flags that most people discounted because Wallace was always looked at as the ultimate team player sacrificing offense for defense, and rebounding. I think now it can be attributed more to him not being good offensively, and not willing to work on that aspect of the game.

Now we know why Detroit was so willing to part with a defensive player of the year.

To Pax's defense I think Wallace duped a lot of people including yours truly. But as fans we don't have the resources to draw from, including personal interviews, with the player himself. 

It appears he had Skiles fooled too. It was evident right from the start Wallace was a me first guy. He made a fiasco about the head band thing, was late for practices, and in a playoff game, hugged, and kissed his ex-teammates in Detroit while in battle against them. 

He was a bad influence on some youngsters who appeared to have followed the lead of Wallace as selfish jerks. Some of which have been cleaned out or allowed to leave in free agency, and along with Wallace were probably THE biggest reason for Skiles removal. Boy wouldn't he look good on the bench now. The mistake in the 06' draft I can excuse, because one can look at every General Manager in the league that made that mistake. 

The Deng contract though can not be excused. Either way you slice that one up Deng was, and continues to be overpaid. Wouldn't it be nice to have his payroll off the book this off season?

But then the lucky ping pong balls shed some hope on this franchise once again. To his credit he did fleece the Knicks to improve this team, and made a shrewd pick with Noah who many gave him hell for before last season's playoff run, and subsequent post season appearance in the now legendary seven game Celtic series.



I think a lot of people are failing to realize the part Jerry Riensdorf plays in all of this. Siding with Krause was a disaster. But more specifically to this current administration is the handling of the coaching situation two seasons ago. 

If Paxson had his druthers Doug Collins would be coaching these guys and I believe the franchise would've been better off even if they didn't make the playoffs. He would have made sure that this basketball team, and particularly Rose would've developed properly. It's the stupid personal issues Riensdorf couldn't get past. 

So they hired Del Negro, (Riensdorf's choice), and a couple of head coaches to assist. That was a big mistake, but somehow overcame it making the post season two years in a row. I think in large part to the best trade in the NBA last season, and the sheer will of the players this season. Not to mention the further evolution of Derrick Rose, and to a smaller degree Joakim Noah.

Now back to the bad. 

All this of course set up the latest Fiasco. Paxson didn't want Del Negro to begin with, so it was only a matter of time before this came to a head. This does not excuse Paxson's actions. If he had fired him in December when word got out that the Bulls were going to do so eventually, he wouldn't have been in this situation. 

Word is organizationally they did not want an interim situation again, so the only option was let Del Negro coach out the string, or Paxson himself would have to coach the team. As Paxson kicked himself upstairs so he didn't have to deal with the stressful spotlight, the last thing he wanted to do was be the head coach. Talk about ironic. Bet they wish Bickerstaff would've been put in charge now. 

Of course THE main point is that if Paxson had just kept his head, and acted like a professional worthy of leading a multi-million dollar business, this would still be a non story.

Besides if they'd have just shut Noah down entirely until he was completely cleared to play as long as his conditioning allowed him too, there would have been no issue to fight over at all. Another case of irony. So Paxson either way you slice it has brought this on himself, even though he was undercut by his boss by having his choice as coach rejected in favor of the owners choice.



So there is a good beginning, a decent middle, (minus the altercation), and a yet to be determined end to this story so far. Depending on their coaching hire this off season along with whether they land a big fish free agent, it will go a long way towards whether all the negativity under the Paxson administration gets wiped away or not.

I think Paxson did go with his heart more so then his head at times, and he got burned by it. We all know where, and when this happened. But overall I give him a solid C grade with the chance to be even higher or lower dependant on how his recent moves translates to the teams over all success. Like clearing the cap space, and relying on the fortunes of this coming free agency. 

Some people will say he lucked out with the draft last year, but he didn't screw it up. Remember there were a lot of so called experts, and fans that thought Beasly was the better choice, and fit for this team. I'm anxious to see what the team does from this point on. Which is galaxies away from how I felt Before Paxson took over.

So love him or hate, fail him or pass him. One things for sure. He did make the Bulls relevant again.