What to make of Vinny Del Negro?

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So what do we make of coach Vinny Del Negro after two seasons?   The guy seems universally disliked by fans.  He seems to be the skapegoat for all of our losing while getting no credit for any of our winning.

The number one thing any coach can do for a ball club is to make the team play hard.    That's the first thing every successful coach needs to do, and it's something Vinny has accomplished.   The Bulls played hard all season.

Through multiple periods where they were absolutely dead, he got the team to rally and continue to play hard.   Through the 1-10 stretch early in the season and the 0-10 stretch late, the Bulls came back and rallied.    It's incredible to think that in the other 61 games the Bulls were 41-20. 

On top of that, he has the endorsement of his top two players.   Both Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah came out to endorse him and think he should come back next season.   Now Noah has only been apart of the Skiles/Boylan era where the coaching situation was a train wreck under Boylan and the team (staff and players included) all quit on each other early.

He didn't get playing time, and got suspended due to a vote by Ben Wallace which may or may not have been deserved, but really irks me considering the source was one of the worst Bulls ever to grace the uniform (worse in the sense of his salary, performance and entitlement vs his production on the court).   

Anyway, any coach probably looks great to Noah relative to that train wreck.

Derrick Rose is still on his first professional coach, however, he credits Vinny for giving him plenty of time to play through mistakes.   Given that Derrick's been a long time Bulls fan, perhaps he was watching games as mystified as the rest of us the way some young guys were yanked in and out, and felt relieved to not get that treatment.  

He also notes how Vinny watched film with him everyday and explained offensive concepts to him, and let's face it, as great of a talent that Rose is, he never ran pick and rolls in college.   He basically had to learn to run a pro offense in the NBA, and his improvement in this area has been immense. 

Now, maybe that's all reputation and Rose, but I think it's unfair to completely do away with giving Del Negro some credit.  He was the one correcting all of Rose's mistakes for the past two seasons while letting him play through that.

In fact, I want you to go back to the beginning of this season and picture in your mind who the big three on the Bulls would be, or even the big four.   Now picture in your mind who they are now.

A common list of Bulls fans would probably look something like this:
1: Rose
2: Salmons

With some combination of Tyrus, Miller, Noah, and Deng filling out the 3 and 4 spots on the rankings

Rose plus three guys not in our long term plans.   However, who is our big four right now?
1: Rose
2: Noah
3: Deng
4: Gibson

If he had morphed James Johnson into a good player, then you could say he would have positioned the Bulls five most important guys going forward into the five best players on the team.   However, the end result has been that our four best players now happen to be four guys who will remain with the team for the foreseeable future.

Obviously Deng gets full credit for putting himself firmly on the "now" list by staying healthy and playing well.   However, other than myself, I don't think many people had Joakim Noah ahead of Tyrus as a player, and few people (certainly I wasn't one of them though I blogged that management thought he was based on some inside sources) had Taj Gibson anywhere being a starting caliber talent.

I was screaming my head off for Gibson to be benched and Tyrus to be played more early in the season, but how stupid does that look now?   Gibson became a quality third big man and at least a guy who can be a 4th or 5th starter on a team who's primary talent is at other positions.   He did that largely because Del Negro kept playing him even when things weren't going well.

Gibson made himself, but Del Negro gave him the chance to do it.   He did what we always want a coach to do.  He played the guys who were important to the future (Johnson excluded) and gave them more opportunities.   Whether he genuinely had more faith in them or had some management direction, his season wide rotation helped the Bulls considerably when preparing for the future.

I know people will come back and complain about his timeouts, plays out of timeouts, overall offensive strategy and a million other things, but he hasn't run himself out of timeouts that I recall since the 2009 playoffs, fans always view rotations via hindsight, and the pick and roll is a good overall strategy to teach Rose.

Even if it's not necessarily the most effective strategy now, if the Bulls are to build a great team then you can bet there will be a ton of pick and roll involved with a better pick and roll big man.   Sticking with that plan will pay huge dividends in a couple of years if the Bulls acquire such a big man.

I'm not trying to champion Vinny, I'm really not.   I agree with fans when I watch him, nothing about him screams "this guy is a quality coach", but when I sit back and look at the big picture, he's done virtually everything I would want my coach to do and has support of the only two players that really matter. 

He's almost certainly gone, but I tell you now Bulls fans, be careful what you wish for.   It can be a lot worse than Vinny Del Negro.  He's no where near as bad as you think and given his experience when starting this job, I think he greatly overachieved.   If there's any justice in the NBA, Vinny will get another gig and don't be surprised if he's very successful in the future.

Remember fans don't see 90% of what coaches do.   We hyperanalyze the remaining 10% in situations where we're at our emotional peak.   I don't get to see 90% of what Vinny does either, but the overall results tell me he did quite a bit right.

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  • It's gotta be hard for Vinny to go through this knowing that all he's accomplished the past two years. I want him to come back for next year but i also don't wanna miss out on some of the good coaches that out there (byron scott, avery johnson, etc.) Cause what if we get off to a bad start next year then the media and journalists will be all over the Bulls about firing the guy, so it is basically a lose-lose situation for VDN...

    ......and does anybody else wanna go after Dirk this summer?!?

  • Miller more important than Noah at the start of the year? Deng not included? That's one hell of a stretch. The three main guys were always going to be Rose, Noah and Deng (assuming he could get on the court).

    As far as giving players confidence, did Hinrich or Salmons look confident to you? At times they looked like they'd be taken out the back and given a severe thrashing if they missed another shot. I know both guys struggled, but we needed them to keep shooting threes and at some point they just stopped even trying to. If you're going to give Vinny credit when guys play well, you have to look at the flip side too.

    And you say we analyse what the coach does in the heat of the moment at an emotional high? Noah's interview where he spoke in favor of Vinny was right after they'd just had their season ended. We can't make a rational judgement but Noah was in a position to right then? And even if he was, was he going to come out and say Vinny sucks on TV to all the NBA fans watching? Given you've called LeBron a jerk for what he's done, what would that make Noah?

    So I think you're overanalysing that he has the support of Rose & Noah.

    I was dead against firing Vinny in the middle of the season, I think if you hire a rookie you have to give him time, but now he's had two full seasons, and we're going into such a huge off season, the Bulls have the timing exactly right here.

  • In reply to DontLetsStart:

    I think you have to judge a coach like Vinny, in terms of development, on how he did with the young players. Players like Kirk, Salmons, Miller... they're set in their ways. They're not changing.

    However, Vinny was responsible for the development of Rose, Noah, Taj, JJ. Three of those four have done as well as anyone could have predicted. He has maximized those three, or at least played a role (in the end, it's the player).

  • In reply to DontLetsStart:

    I agree on the "careful what you wish for" statement. I don't understand when people just say, "get rid of him." For whom?

    What other high profile, high salaried coaches have been hired recently. Flip Saunders? Eddie Jordan? Mike D'Antoni? Didn't see any of them in the playoffs this year.

    Keep VDN!!

  • In reply to KenyattaWright:

    I would've still preferred D'Antoni, if only because it would probably mean we'd have Stoudemire this summer. Put any coach in NY and they're not making the playoffs.

  • In reply to KenyattaWright:

    The problem with the Bulls is that the makeup of the team other than Noah, Rose, and possibly Deng is poor. No outside shooting an no post scoring. This is managements fault, not the coach. If the team gets better players this off-season if would be 'fair' to give VDN a chance. However, his relationship with management means that at best he would be on a short leash if he came back, and that is no way to coach a team that's trying to become a contender. Let VDN go to greener pastures where he has some support.

    I just hope that if the Bulls go in another direction they get a elite coach. The team makes too much money to continue to be cheap in this regard.

  • In reply to KenyattaWright:

    Everybody always wants to tear somebody down when they are unproven. Especially if there is the slightest hint of failure. Many winning coaches have had extremely bad first couple of seasons let alone two .500 campaigns.

    That said, the 90% of what a coach does is not discrenable observation I disagree with. If you watch the game long enough, you can get quite a sense of a coaches performance strengths and weaknesses by 82 games for a year or two certainly. Unfortunately if you have a bad team/little talent, that picture can be very deceiving. I would however not say the Bulls have little talent or a bad team as many suggested this year. A bad team does not have Derrick Rose. A bad team does not have Joakim Noah, and Taj Gibson. But we did have injuries. Plenty of them. Without those I think the Bulls would have been possibly a 47-48 win team. So a decent team yes. A top four ballclub in the conference? No. Not unless you are in a deceptively weak conference which the East is. Though Derrick's games where he plays like a top ten player might make you think so at times. Likewise Joakim he can alter games sometimes when he's maxing out his game with his incredible energy. But no outside shooting or offensively talented bigs. Those are some serious missing pieces.

    But Do I think Vinny has enough to work with to get an accurate picture of his coaching capabilities? Yep.

    When people take a side or campaign for someone, which I don't think Doug is campaigning, but it's certainly a somewhat emotional/divisive/critical subject as in who's coaching your favortie team, and are they competent to do so. There's no all good or all bad as people who mostly want to argue these type of points will debate every counter point to the side they're on.

    Point for Del negro: Vinny reatedly made the right move when it came to shitstorms about these incredibly lopsided losses and lead crashing implosions. You do have to put the majority of the focuse/blame on the players. If not, you become the focus, and the players are not held accountable. Plus your job security is on the line, and ringing self-criticism does not help that cause.

    I'd say from a survival and political standpoint Vinny is a disciplined person. You could say he's practical/sees the big picture which is what a boss/head coach needs to be. Not emotional as a Skiles who always burns everyone out including himself over the long term.

    So Vinny in showing wisdom, long term fortitude you rest a team's growth and psyche on - yes these are important things. And it's that type of bedrock of stability that helps players feel a consistent atmosphere in which to focus and strive to improve.

    So are these strengths alone enough to make a winning coach who could possibly get to "point C" as Doug Collins while a technical wiz was an emotional disaster who could not?

    For me, the answer is no. Counter Point: For the amount of time Vinny remained passive on the bench was so overwhelming that it speaks for itself. The overwhelming number of occassions where he had the opportunity to stick up for his young players to NBA refs which you need to help establish some respect. All good coaches and players do this. Not Vinny. And during in game implosions I don't believe I ever witnessed some major strategy change that quelled an opposing team's advantage/what was working for them. And that's not just Vinny. It's most of the coaches out there. that's why a god coach is so hard to find.

    Instead the Vinny way is to just keep running the same basic pick and roll plays to infinity. We've all seen it/bitched about it. Should not have happened with the iso opportunities with Rose.

    Finally, as for player "endorsements," when a camera comes on you, and your a decent guy who thinks of others, and you know there is a dark cloud looming over someone's head, are you just going to say, "next question or that's a management question." Yeah a lot of guys would pull that, but not good guys like Derrick and Joakim. Clearly there's a sense of decency with those two. You see it in the way Joakim approaches opposing players before games, old college foes and former teammates. And not at first, but now completely with the media. Look at his interviews on Bulls.com with the Swirsk. Joakim is a kind, embracing man. Period. But if you look at their faces when they utter the obligatory support for their coach, Derrick flat out looked away when he said yes to supporting Vinny looked like he was performing a task. Likwise Joakim. How could he really be behind something, and show no enthusiams. Now you could say he doesn't want to rock the boat with maangement. But I don't think that's Joakim. If he really was enthused about Vinny, it would have came through which it did not. And Deng was much more lackluster then those two so those are your big three.

    Vinny is to me infinitely sterlie as a coach. I felt like watching him this season with the lack of support for his players and no comraderie during dead balls etc, and laying for such interminable stretches hunched over eclipsed by assistants during crises on the court. It just felt like a phony. Someone playing the part. A rip off. I'd be extremely displeased to see Vinny come back as the Bulls head coach. And as a sidenote I do think Bob Oceipka deserves some credit for the defensive improvement of the team as that was stated as a greater responsibility/arera of focus for him coming into the season.

  • In reply to KenyattaWright:

    Doug, excellent piece. I think it's all about expectations.
    I think what fans fail to realize is - is Vinny overachieving or underachieving for a 2-year experienced head coach? In my opinion, he has overachieved. The facts are that he has taken a team with good but not great talent and has made the playoffs each of the last two years under extreme external difficulties, trades, injuries; players play hard for him, etc. I've seen growth from him from the first year to the second. He is growing into a legitimate NBA head coach. That is certainly not to say that we should necessarily keep him. If there is a better coach out there, than get him. But I think Bulls fans give Vinny too much grief when in fact he has overachieved for a two year head coach.

  • In reply to DontLetsStart:

    I like Vinnie and would like to see him stay. Give him 1 season with a complete team. He's been coaching in the transition years and doing a good enough job. Maybe get a better X & Os guy next to him.

  • In reply to DontLetsStart:

    1. I agree with Kenyalla's comments above. How many other high profile coaches with young talent have used them well and improved them. Those teams gave up very easily. Compared to them VDN did a great job
    2. If you look at the team's talent, Noah and Rose are the best players and leaders on the court. The Bulls lost badly only when one of them were out/injured. Assuming if both of them were healthy from Day 1, you would think the Bulls would have easily won another 8/10 games making it 50-52 Win team and probably 4th seed with a great chance to make the 2nd round. People will say every team has injury issues. But the Bulls bench was pitiful and the management to get rid of whatever talent was there which was not the case with the other playoff teams.
    3. For all the issues with VDN(relationship with Paxson, offense sets, time-out issues), he won. When they fire the coach, it is usually the talk that he didn't win. Shouldn't the case be the same for keeping a coach? This is a business where winning matters..
    4. And the other thing I wanted to point out is the cynical view of the Chicago Media. When almost universally, the national media is telling VDN has done a great job the local media has been consistent that VDN is not good and needs to be fired. I am just not sure if I trust the local media who think they are experts in every sport and always think the outside of Chicago is green and great.

  • Any suggestions?

  • Great article Doug! I completely agree with everything. Although I do want to get a bigger name coach in here, Vinny has not been nearly as bad as everyone makes him out to be. He got limited rosters with big holes to the playoffs two straight years with no prior experience. To me that has to be recognized.

    Although I still believe we can do better. I personally am hoping for the Bulls to dish out some $ and go for Byron Scott. He has great success with Kidd and Paul as his point guards and has been to the Finals twice. Sign me up.

  • Look at the coaches who have won multiple NBA championships in the last 20/30 years. There are only three of them..Phil, Popovich, Pat Riley. What is common among them. They are more of leaders and are very polished. I am not saying Vinny is close to them but he is composed, handled issues pretty well in the public. Do we want to go for recycled coaches who get one or two seasons of improvement and then get fired like Avery Johnson, Van Gundy? Play calling, X's and O's can be improved by hiring good assistants like Ociepka(improved Bulls defense).. Byron Scott took the Nets to two NBA finals and improved the Hornets a lot. I hope the Bulls get him/Phil Jackson/Doug Collins(I think he might be calmer now) or just keep VDN. A few years back Doc Rivers got "Coach of the Year" for going 41/41 with Orlando. And he won with talent in Boston.

    Please, these recycled coaches are good enough to take you to second round or Conference Finals and flame out. We have seen this again and again. Bulls need to take some risk and also pay for a good coach

  • All things equal Vinny has earned the chance to finish the last year of his contract and fight to earn a new one, but we all know all things aren't equal.

  • I think im the only one that likes VDN seems like.

  • This is to important of a offseason to keep Del Negro around...its just bad timing for him. You have to bring in a Avery Johnson or Byron Scott or hopefully even Doc Rivers...those 3 guys will deff. get you a MAX free agent this summer. Vinny on the other hand...wont imo.

  • I have to disagree on that nosediving part. I've already commented on Dirk and I think if he's really willing to leave Dallas, the Bulls should be all over him.

    http://www.chicagonow.com/blogs/chicago-bulls-confidential/2010/04/no-significant-findings-in-rose-mri-expected-to-play.html#comment-209246

    If they could get him, they only need some decent role players. Imagine Dirk next to Joakim. Bosh is an All-Star, but Dirk is a true (underappreciated, at least by the fans) Superstar.

  • This is too important of a offseason to keep Vinny around...its just bad timing for him. Guys like Byron Scott, Avery Johnson and maybe even Doc Rivers (if he leaves his contract) will bring you in a MAX free agent...Vinny wont imo. Like i said, its bad timing for Vinny and you cant take that chance of keeping him here. Honestly i think the Bulls should fire both Pax and Vinny...get this whole situation out of the organization. Theres no room for that.

  • "Remember fans don't see 90% of what coaches do. We hyperanalyze the remaining 10% in situations where we're at our emotional peak. I don't get to see 90% of what Vinny does either, but the overall results tell me he did quite a bit right."

    Extremely astute Doug. This is why I come here.

  • The big problem I see with firing Vinny (and the main question I want those who advocate his firing to answer) is who replaces him? Remember, these are the Bulls. Who are these awesome super-duper coaches that we're going to pay for and will come here?

    I think that if you can Vinny you run a real chance of the Bulls hiring Vinny Del Negro 2 as his replacement--another no-name, low experience coach. And if that's going to be the case, why not just keep a guy who has gotten us to the postseason two straight years?

  • The question is VDN, Avery Johnson, Byron Scott and Doc Rivers were all average guards who were kind of leaders when they played and not superstars. What makes VDN less than the others except others are something the Bulls haven't had and the others have won a little more(finals for Avery, Scott and a title for Rivers). But they had way more mature talent when they won. If we are not getting Phil...I would make sure if I were the Bulls that the new coach is the perfect fit before we invest..

  • I am kind of on the fence when it comes to VDN's future with the team cause even though I questioned some of his play calling and decision making when it came down to the player substitutions... the players never quit on him and he got the best out of his players while playing through injuries and just with the line up period. This entire situation is all on management cause they have not been behind VDN for the entire time he has been with the team. Reinsdorf needs to get off his ass come back to Chicago from where he is living tying to by a hockey team, and straighten this mess out. This is what happens when the boss doesn't care about his team and does not care. I really wish this idiot would sell the team to someone that cares and want to win cause it has to be clear to everyone that this clueless person don't give a damn about the Bulls. I realize that this is a big summer for the Bulls and they need to clear this mess up and decide on who their coach is going to be before July 1st comes. VDN does deserve a chance cause this is what the Bulls gave him but at the same time management needs to be on the same page with Vinny. If they can't resolve all of this either VDN or Paxson needs to go. It seems to me that Paxson is the one that needs to be evaluated cause he has had these run ins with these coaches. Scott Skiles is up in Milwaukee about to pull of an upset with a team who is nowhere near 100% and he was not given a real chance in Chicago either because of a young team at the time. I don't know it just seems like the Bulls management is getting of people cause they expect a coach to win with a team that is either too young or just does not have enough talent and I'm sorry but that is not fair to the coach. The Bulls ownership needs to just stop being cheap, it has been long enough. Don't take it out on the fans cause you had the best player to ever play the game and you had to finally start to pay him at the end of his career. Reinsdorf is a joke and I really do believe that if it was left up to him as it have been for the past twelve years... the Bulls would never win and things would be back to the way they were before Jordan arrived. If the Bulls don't make some aggressive moves this summer, everyone should start looking forward to not being irrelevant to the NBA for a long time.

  • The big name coaches are Byron Scott, Doc Rivers, Jeff Van Gundy, Avery Johnson, Tom Thibudou Bostons Assistant Coach...there are plenty of coaches out there that would coach the Bulls team. We have the making of the NBA's next great superstar in Derrick Rose, a almost all star big man in Noah and a very good 3rd offensive weapon in Deng. PLUS WE HAVE MAX MONEY THIS SUMMER. Chicago is a great spot for someone to coach at. The difference between Vinny and the other guys is that the other guys can bring in a MAX free agent...VInny on the other hand...i have my doubts.

  • I have a lot more respect for Vinny now than I did inteh beginning of the year. The sad truth is the Bulls just simply need a beter coach going forward and to lure FAs....just bad timing for VDN but he earned respect. I'd like to see both Pax and VDN go if VDN goes...

  • Lookat Phil's playoff appearances with just Kobe after Shaq left . They're pretty comparable to vinnys.

  • Exactly CN71....to get this team to the next level we need a different coach in here. Its just bad timing for Vinny...we cant risk keeping him and having us miss out on FA's. He an Pax should both be gone so we wont have to deal with any of those problems that went on this year.

  • I personally like VDN. His stubbornness with the bench and learning curve as an inexperienced coach is maddening sometimes, but I think overall he has overachieved. For a guy who hasn't coach so much as an elementary school team to take two marginally talented teams to the playoffs is remarkable. It's not like he took over a talent-laden team either. While having some good pieces for the future, it's not well constructed to compete through thick or thin. As we saw, one or two key injury and the who thing collapses. This year in particular was an emotional roller coaster. Injuries and several bad losses robbed us from having a 50+ win season. Yet, the potential is there and we're one or two players away from being a contender. VDN should get some credit for that. He certainly takes more than his share of the credit for the team's shortcomings. I don't think the problems with management should factor into it either. They're probably as responsible for the Bulls failings as he is, if not more so. When you give a manager less to work with and he still has a fairly successful season (.500 record, playoff appearance and marked improvement with main players) you owe it to him to try his hand with an improved team.

    We applaud Rose for his improvement from year 1 to year 2, why don't we do the same with VDN? Yes, he still makes mistakes but he's still at the beginning of his learning curve. He's a sophomore coach with no prior experience. He will get better and I think he has it in him to be a very successful coach in this league. Especially after his nightmare experience with this management team. I would have liked that to be with the Bulls.

    Let's also keep in mind, all the clowns fans talk about chasing after are available for a reason. None of them are semi-retired or just decided to take time off. They all got FIRED because they couldn't get the job done with their last team(s). Both of Byron Scott's teams quit on him. After leading a 60+ win team to an epic collapse in the Finals, Avery Johnson led a 67 win team to an epic failure in the first round to an 8th seed and followed that with another first round loss. Lawrence Frank started (and ended) his season with an 0-16 record while Jeff Van Gundy was canned after a first round loss despite leading the Rockets to 52 wins (and 18 game improvement over the previous season). Every coach is a well paid temp, so let's not assume the grass is greener on the other side.

  • I hope we keep Vinny. Given a few more years, I think he will be a very good coach. He's decent already as it is.

  • Its just bad timing for him....do we really want to risk keeping him around and then have Free Agents turn us away because of it? If you were Chris Bosh...and you could go to a Bulls team with Byron Scott or Doc Rivers on 1 team or you could go to a Bulls team with VDN....i bet 9 times out of 10 your going with Byron Scott and DOc Rivers. It would be just another reason for Bosh to leave Toronto...we have a better team, better city, better coach, better future.

  • In reply to Csharp:

    Is there any real indication that VDN is a detriment to recruitment? The only people I see saying this are Bulls fans who have been frustrated with him the past 2 years. But I don't see the general NBA populace saying "man, the Bulls would have taken off but Vinny was really holding them back".

    I mean, if the Bulls get a big free agent this summer it's going to be because of the success they've had the last 2 years, and VDN has been a part of that. And it's not like players are bashing him--at least, publicly they've been pumping him up--so do we expect players to not like Vinny and not want to come here?

    I hear a lot of talk about how we're not attractive enough as a destination with Vinny here but I'm just not sure I believe it.

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