Ever since Jeff Van Gundy started out as an analyst with ESPN, he’s made it a point to come to the defense of a lot of coaches. Recently, Van Gundy was critical of how the Chicago Bulls handled the firing of Vinny Del Negro. Del Negro was seemingly on the hot seat from the first day he got the job. He was a constant target of media and fan criticism, and was often the first person blamed when the Bulls struggled.
In shootaround today, Jeff’s brother Stan told ESPN Chicago that he agrees with his brother on the matter of Del Negro’s firing:
“From midseason on, I don’t think Vinny got much support from their
organization,” Stan said. “I didn’t understand — you never know the
inner-workings, and so maybe there was some stuff behind the scenes —
but from a coaching perspective, Vinny did a very, very good job with
“They gave up their two best wing scorers in [Ben]
Gordon and [John] Salmons, and they were a great defensive team that
struggled to score. I don’t think that’s shocking when you give up two
guys like that. The front office makes the decision to make those
trades [Gordon left via free agency], and then Vinny’s the scapegoat
for it. [It’s a] hard thing to understand.”
Stan pointed to Derrick Rose’s development under Del Negro as a significant point in the ex-coach’s favor. When asked about the coaching future of his brother Jeff, Stan said that he doesn’t think Jeff will be coaching next season, and went so far as to say he didn’t even think he’d interview with the Bulls.
Whether or not Del Negro deserved to be fired after this season is debatable. On the one hand, the Bulls have a talented young roster led by Derrick Rose, but struggled to score all season long and barely squeezed into the playoffs with a 41-41 record. On the other hand, the Bulls finished their season strong, and had a respectable showing against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round.
However, as the team seemed to be playing its best basketball of the season, Del Negro made headlines for getting into a shoving match with John Paxson over Joakim Noah’s playing time. Only the Bulls front office knows for sure how big of a factor that incident played into Del Negro’s firing, but the timing of the incident and the firing were less than ideal from a PR standpoint. The Bulls have made their move, and are officially in the hunt for a new head coach. Only time will tell if they did the right thing.