Chicago Sun-Times

Del Negro reacts to report, but management declines

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Because general manager Gar Forman and vice president John Paxson declined to comment on Monday, Vinny Del Negro was left to address - again - an Internet report saying his days as Bulls coach are numbered.

"It's just funny to me," Del Negro said following practice Monday. "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."

According to the ESPN.com report citing NBA sources familiar with the "thinking" of Bulls management, the decision has been made that Del Negro isn't the man for the job long-term.

The report, citing the same sources, said the Bulls don't want to promote an assistant coach on an interim basis and that Paxson coaching has been ruled out as a possibility. It also said TNT analyst Doug Collins -- who was close to taking the job before Del Negro was hired -- was contacted and declined to take over during the season.

ESPN.com hedged its report by saying Del Negro could last the season if the Bulls can't get the guy they want until after the season.

"You have to deal with those things," Del Negro said. "It's unfortunate, but everyone has their source, but no one's source so far has been very accurate. My focus is getting the team ready for tomorrow against Indiana. We had a good practice today and I was pleased with the effort and energy."

The truth is, the only thing new in the report is that the Bulls have reached a conclusion on Del Negro and contacted Collins. Del Negro's future beyond this season was an issue even before the season. He had to prove himself this season to return for the final year of his contract.

The team's 11-17 record and haggard play since a 6-4 start has made his job status an issue right now, but pulling the trigger now doesn't make a lot of sense - unless you can get someone who want on the job next season to take the reins of the team immediately.

That eliminates Collins - who is close with Del Negro and never would agree to that - and probably all of the former coaches currently biding time on television, including Jeff Van Gundy, Avery Johnson and even Byron Scott, who was fired by the New Orleans Hornets earlier in the season and now is working for ESPN.

It also eliminates assistant coaches with other NBA teams as candidates because no team is going to allow a top assistant to leave during the season.

So the best bet for the Bulls - who are finally healthy with the return of Tyrus Thomas on Saturday and could be primed for a run -- is to allow Del Negro to finish the season and then make a quick decision afterward. That way, if a change is made, the Bulls could have the new coach in place before the free-agent period begins in July.

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This page contains a single entry by John Jackson published on December 28, 2009 2:25 PM.

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