In a move that has been rumored for months, the Chicago Bulls have officially dismissed Vinny Del Negro.
The move comes after his second straight 41-41 season at the helm, and after two straight first round playoff exits. The announcement will be made in a press conference Tuesday in Chicago, though it has been accepted for some time this would be Del Negro's fate:
Del Negro is expected to join general manager Gar Forman at an 11 a.m. news conference Tuesday at the Berto Center.
Vice president of basketball operations John Paxson also may finally address the physical confrontation he had with Del Negro following a loss at the United Center on March 30. The two argued over the number of minutes given to sore-footed center Joakim Noah.
Del Negro met with Forman on Monday morning and was given the news after lunch. The coach sat down with Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf on Sunday and made a pitch to continue as coach into the third year of his contract.
The Bulls are planning to continue a front-office transition, with Forman making more of the key decisions, while Paxson evolves into a consultant role.
Del Negro took the job as the 17th Bulls coach back in 2008 after Chicago was unsuccessful in landing their first two candidates: Mike D'Antoni and Doug Collins. His inexperience was overlooked as another aspect of a young team that won the hearts of NBA fans in the first round of the 2009 Playoffs, taking the defending champion Boston Celtics through seven overtimes before losing by ten in Game 7.
But Del Negro's inexperience and inability to manage the talent on his team began to become a concern in December after a a pair of 30-point blowout losses, a loss to the 1-19 New Jersey Nets, and giving up a 35 point lead before losing to Sacramento at home. As the Bulls pulled back into contention for the playoffs, things seemed to calm down for Vinny until the confrontation with Paxson.
So what now for the Bulls? After the two .500 seasons with first-round exits, they seem to be in the same position they were in before hiring the former guard as head coach. The difference this time is the importance of making a decision quickly. With the Free Agency Summer 2010 Extravaganza just two months away, Chicago would like to have a coach in place to make a run to land one of the premiere players on the list. With youngsters Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah playing some of their best basketball yet, adding a superstar like Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, or Carlos Boozer could be a franchise-changing move.
Their short list will likely include notable former coaches Kevin McHale, Jeff Van Gundy, Lawerence Frank, and Maurice Cheeks. Van Gundy has reportedly already turned down an invitation to interview for the 76ers opening, though Chicago's talent and cap space makes them a much more enticing player in the NBA coaching carousel.
So for Chicago, the future is hopeful for now. They have the opportunity to try to land a respected name from the coaching community and a NBA All Star in the same off-season. Now the challenge for Forman and Paxson will be to deliver for Chicago what they haven't had since Michael left: a true contender.