Why was Vinny Del Negro fired?

Vinny Del Negro has been fired as coach of the Chicago Bulls.

The decision to fire Del Negro came after organizational meetings last week and over the weekend. Del Negro met with Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf on Sunday and made a pitch to return for a third season, citing the accomplishments during his two seasons.

But, in the end, Reinsdorf took the recommendation of Forman and executive vice president John Paxson and decided to make a change.

But Del Negro did lead the Bulls to two playoff appearances. With the likely addition of a big-name free agent this summer, the franchise seems poised to become a serious contender in the East. Why exactly was he fired?

The major reason was the growing rift between him and management, which gained national attention when news broke of a postgame confrontation between Del Negro and Paxson in late March.

”That was a toxic situation,” TNT analyst Charles Barkley said Monday night. ”Vinny’s a good guy; Paxson’s a good guy. I said two weeks ago they had to fire him.”

Is Del Negro a good coach? It’s tough to say. He’s 82-82 in two seasons with two playoff appearances, but one could argue that the talent in Chicago is better than that. He was unable to develop Tyrus Thomas and John Salmons flourished in Milwaukee after he was moved at the trade deadline.

By removing Del Negro now, the franchise may be able to use the opening as a selling point to potential free agents. Would LeBron James or Dwyane Wade sign with the Bulls if Phil Jackson agreed to return to Chicago? How about Doug Collins or Avery Johnson?

Though the Bulls do expect to have the position filled by the start of free agency, I fully expect that they’d put feelers out to see how their top free agent targets feel about their top coaching targets. They’d be fools not to.

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Paxson shoves Del Negro in dispute over playing time

Despite the Bulls’ late push for a playoff spot, all is not rosy in Chicago. Yahoo! Sports reports that general manager John Paxson pushed head coach Vinny Del Negro because he played Joakim Noah more than he was supposed to.

Chicago Bulls executive vice president John Paxson shoved coach Vinny Del Negro twice in the chest and had to be restrained in a postgame confrontation late last month, multiple sources told Yahoo! Sports.

After a loss to the Phoenix Suns on March 30, an irate Paxson walked into the coach’s office at the United Center and confronted Del Negro over a narrow breach of a management-imposed minutes limit on injured forward Joakim Noah. 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.

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. The Bulls have dispatched lawyers to interview witnesses about the incident, sources said.

What a scene this must have been. A GM for a NBA team poking his head coach in the chest because he played one of his semi-injured players too many minutes, and the coach is too worried about his contract to react. Unsurprisingly, both parties are toeing the company line.

Del Negro has been on thin ice all season and he’s fighting for his job right now. If he can lead the Bulls to the playoffs and give the Cavs a decent run in the first round, he might have an opportunity to stick around and coach whatever big-name free agent that the Bulls are able to land. If his Bulls miss the playoffs (by losing to Charlotte and Toronto beating the Knicks tonight) then there’s a good chance he’ll be canned.

2008 NBA Preview: #17 Chicago Bulls

Offseason Movement: The Bulls were relatively quiet this summer, but they did manage to sign Luol Deng to an extension. They were unable to sign Ben Gordon to a long-term deal, so it looks like he’s on his way out of town. He’ll be motivated for his next contract and would be a good candidate for an in-season trade. The team also signed Vinny Del Negro as its head coach.
Keep Your Eye On: Derrick Rose, PG
The #1 overall pick should see lots of action in the backcourt with Kirk Hinrich sliding over to shooting guard. Physically, he’s ready to play in the NBA and has the makings of an impact point guard not unlike Chris Paul or Deron Williams. He needs to work on his jumper, but once he gets that going, watch out.
The Big Question: When is this team going to fulfill its potential?
For the last few seasons, the Bulls have seemingly been on the verge of putting together something special. They shot themselves in the foot when they (way) overspent on Ben Wallace and sent Tyson Chandler to New Orleans where he’s now emerging as a star. With a starting lineup of Rose, Hinrich, Deng, Drew Gooden and Joakim Noah, along with a bench that includes Andres Nocioni, Larry Hughes and Ben Gordon, the team has the talent to compete with anyone in the East. The question is chemistry.
Outlook: The same old same old. Once again, Bulls fans look at their team’s roster and see a group of very good players. Deng is the closest that the team has to a star, so in a way, the Bulls lack an identity. Until someone emerges, whether it’s Deng or Rose (or someone else), the Bulls will be a mediocre team with the potential to be a contender. It’s not clear what Del Negro will bring to the table in his first season, so come April, it seems likely that the Bulls will be fighting for a playoff spot down the stretch in the weaker Eastern Conference.

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