Del Negro meets with Chairman Reinsdorf
Pleads case, but firing still expected this week
By K.C. Johnson, Tribune reporter
11:52 PM CDT, May 2, 2010
Vinny Del Negro met with Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf on Sunday, but the embattled coach's 11th-hour argument to keep his job won't change what the Tribune has reported since December 2009:
Del Negro is expected to be dismissed with one year and roughly $2 million remaining on his guaranteed three-year contract. Barring a snag, the Bulls will make this news official Tuesday.
At that point, executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman will embark on a search focusing on candidates with previous NBA head-coaching experience.
Doug Collins, Lawrence Frank, Kevin McHale, Maurice Cheeks, Byron Scott and Dwane Casey are some of the many names who fit that description and could receive interviews. Management is waiting to contact prospective candidates until Del Negro officially is dismissed.
In his meeting with Reinsdorf, Del Negro pointed to Derrick Rose's growth into an All-Star player, Joakim Noah's progression and Taj Gibson's All-Rookie selection as proof of his and his staff's development of young players, sources said.
He also pointed to the Bulls leading the league in rebounding and improving defensively as evidence of him following management's targeted areas of improvement from last summer, sources said.
Finally, sources said, Del Negro detailed management's claims last summer that, with the departure of Ben Gordon and salary-cap space coming, the 2009-10 season was more the treading-water type.
Forman worked closely with Del Negro last summer, meticulously detailing management's desire for tougher defense and more teaching and accountability. Thus, management would dispute any claims of confusion of what was expected of Del Negro.
Del Negro is scheduled to meet with Forman on Monday as part of normal postseason evaluation.
In fact, Del Negro's meeting with Reinsdorf followed the pattern the Bulls began following last season, wherein Forman and Paxson conduct player exit interviews without the coach, and Del Negro meets individually with Reinsdorf, then Forman.
The stakes, however, were higher this time.
Speculation about Del Negro's job status became a national story in December, when the Bulls limped through a 1-9 stretch and shortly thereafter blew a 35-point lead at home to the lowly Kings. But team insiders detailed a deteriorating relationship between Del Negro and management even during his first season.
Management felt Del Negro strayed from the philosophy he detailed during his interview process, which culminated an eight-week coaching search.
The relationship combusted in most dramatic fashion when Paxson and Del Negro had a brief physical altercation March 30 after Del Negro for the second time exceeded a medically imposed minutes limit for Noah, who was battling plantar fasciitis.
Sources said Del Negro's imminent dismissal has nothing to do with the March 30 incident, which merely made public the deteriorating relationship between Del Negro and Paxson.
Del Negro, sources said, wanted assurances from the organization the incident wouldn't cause Bulls officials to harm his future chances at employment. And after back-to-back postseason berths, it's likely Del Negro will land another job at some point.
During a late-season interview with the Tribune, Del Negro vowed to coach again should the Bulls make a change.
"It's the only thing that gets my juices going," Del Negro said then.
Del Negro went 82-82 during the regular season and 4-8 during two trips to the postseason.
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