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:
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?
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.