There’s no doubt that the heavy media scrutiny surrounding Vinny Del Negro and his job status is starting to take its toll on everyone on the team, from the players to management to especially, Del Negro himself. With fans calling for his head, there’s intense pressure for the Bulls coach to be flawless in his performance. On top of every mistake and bad decision being magnified, he also has to deal with addressing rumors about his firing every practice, shoot around and pregame and postgame interview.
That’s not to say Del Negro is a victim. After all, he helped create the atmosphere he’s dealing with now by starting the season 11-17 and blowing 35-point leads against sub-par teams at home. The Bulls are within their rights to fire Del Negro, but they need to do so now, if that’s what they’re planning on doing.
Late Sunday, Chris Broussard of ESPN.com reported that the Bulls will indeed fire the second-year coach but have not decided on a replacement yet and that’s why they are delaying the inevitable. Apparently, management does not want to promote one of the Bulls’ assistants to interim status and would prefer to find a full-time replacement. Two of the team’s biggest targets, John Paxton (Bulls VP of Basketball Operations) and former NBA coach Doug Collins are reportedly not interested in the position.
On Monday, Del Negro strongly questioned the credibility of Broussard’s story and sources. He also maintained that he has the support of his bosses.
“It’s just funny to me,” Del Negro told reporters following Monday’s practice. “There’s really nothing to say. You have all these people that have rumors and everyone has their sources. It’s just not accurate. I don’t have time to deal with rumors. I talk to Gar and Pax every day; they’re at practice every day.”
“I go on what the people I work with and the people that make those decisions tell me. They’ve been supportive.”
Unlike Pacers’ head coach Jim O’Brien, who got a public endorsement from his boss Larry Bird, none of the higher-ups in the Bulls organization has had Del Negro’s back in the last few days. It has also been speculated that the his players have lost their confidence in him. The combination of those two factors leads you to believe the team is preparing to get rid of him.
It’s understandable that the Bulls are trying to take their time in finding a replacement. After all, they have a huge summer coming up where they are planning to court some of 2010’s biggest free agents. It’s important that they have a head coach for the long-run in mind and a clear direction and plan. Obviously, Del Negro is not that guy and an interim coach will not entice a Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade or Joe Johnson.
But despite pressure on management to find a coach, they must take a stance with Del Negro now. They should either fire him now or publicly endorse him for the remainder of the season. It’s unfair for the players to have to deal with this distraction daily and not know who their leader is going to be. Every day that there’s uncertainty, the less players will buy into what Del Negro is trying to preach.
For Del Negro, it’s unfair that he has to be thrown to the wolves (aka the media) every day and expend that much energy defending himself over and over again. You can’t expect him to perform at his best with those kind of daily distractions. So far, he’s handled it fairly well, but he looks more and more drained every day this saga drags on.
If I were management, I would keep Del Negro until the end of the season and let the public know that. Worry about replacing him in the summer. This way they will have ample time to evaluate potential replacements like a Byron Scott, Lawrence Frank or Avery Johnson. As bad as the Bulls are, they are in a weak Eastern Conference where after the fifth seed, it’s basically up for grabs for several sub .500 clubs. Currently, the Bulls are in ninth place of the Conference and just one game out of both the seventh and eighth seeds.
How do you think the Bulls should handle their coaching situation?