Cubs hire Vandy coach as new minor league pitching coordinator

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Cubs hire Vandy coach as new minor league pitching coordinator

Update: Tuesday, Oct. 30, 12:00 p.m.

The Cubs added more firepower to their ever-growing front office staff, signing Derek Johnson as the organization's minor league pitching coordinator.

Johnson was working as the associate head coach at Vanderbilt and BaseballAmerica called him "one of college baseball's most respected and accomplished pitching coaches."

He was named the 2010 Baseball AmericaABCA Assistant Coach of the Year and is credited with helping to develop such pitchers as David Price, Mike Minor and Casey Weathers (whom the Cubs acquired from the Rockies in the Ian Stewart deal last winter). He earned the National Pitching Coach of the Year in 2004.

Price reacted to the hiring on Twitter Monday afternoon:

He is going to help chicago big time!!! RT @ztstokes: @davidprice14 what do you think about DJ leaving Vandy?

David Price (@DAVIDprice14) October 29, 2012

Johnson helped the Commodores to the school's first-ever College World Series in 2011 while eight pitchers from the team were selected in the MLB Draft, including two in the first and supplemental rounds.

The 41-year-old pitched at Eastern Illinois University and got his coaching start at EIU as well before moving on to Southern Illinois from 1995-97.

Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin spoke to to USATODAY Monday on the hiring.

"When you lose a talent like him, it's always a loss," Corbin said. "The guy immersed himself in pitching. He immersed himself in the development of the kids. It was on his mind 24 hours a day.

"The thing I like about him the most is there's no gray area with DJ. It's black or white. And he's very loyal to the kids and loyal to the program. He stood for all the right things."

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott wasn’t exactly hunting for his first shot, but the first time he touched the ball in an NBA game in nearly a month wasn’t the optimal situation for him to let one fly.

It wasn’t in transition where he runs to an opening behind the 3-point line, nor was it a drive-and-kick situation where the help defense collapsed and left him open. It was a regular, simple, pass to the perimeter and McDermott’s defender was in reasonable proximity with 3:23 left in the first quarter.

He launched and the crowd soon roared its approval as his sweet jumper was sorely missed by the Bulls bench brigade—and moments later when he ran the floor for a fearless layup that caused Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to call a timeout, McDermott showed he missed the United Center crowd too, calling for more noise on his way to the bench.

“Anytime you have a guy like Doug, he comes back and makes his first 3, that’s hard to do,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He stepped up with confidence on that first shot. I’m sure he had a lot of nerves getting back out there.”

Missing 12 games and suffering two concussions, McDermott looked right at home in 25 minutes of run Thursday as the Bulls were able to rely on their reserves in some form in their 95-91 win over the previously perfect road warriors known as the Spurs.

“We defended and kept them off the foul line,” McDermott said. “Coach (Jim) Boylen was with them, so we feel we know them and I think all this time they were missing my defense.”

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The last statement was certainly tongue-in-cheek, but the Bulls’ bench production was certainly missing in action while he was out with the concussion protocol. So much so that his return prompted the Bulls’ coaching staff to call out the reserves in the morning shootaround, demanding more.

“It’s definitely Dwyane (Wade) and Jimmy (Butler) and (Rajon) Rondo (but) the coaching staff kinda called out our bench like, we gotta have you tonight, bench,” McDermott said. “We took that to heart, we were really locked in.”

Seemingly his presence aided the Bulls’ spirits and production, as the Bulls’ bench had the least effective scoring bench in the NBA since Nov. 13, the day after McDermott hit the unforgiving floor against the Wizards for his second concussion this season.

Their net rating ranks ahead of only the Wizards, Mavericks and Nets, who are a combined 17-45 this season. Their effective field goal percentage, which takes into account 3-pointers, is worst in the league in that span (42.3 percent).

When McDermott was healthy for that smaller sample size, the Bulls’ bench ranked fifth in offensive efficiency, seventh in net rating, and fifth in efficient field goal percentage. Whether McDermott – and his absence – was directly related to those numbers, it’s clear the Bulls are better when they have their best reserve – and only true floor spacers on the second unit – on the court.

“We’re all professionals and we want to help the guys who are busting their butts in the first unit to get us the leads,” McDermott said. “Tonight we did a great job of sustaining it. We take it personal when teams come back on us.”

[MORE: Pau Gasol relishes consistency with Spurs he couldn't find with Bulls]

Nikola Mirotic was four of eight from the field, and Cristiano Felicio seems to be back in Fred Hoiberg’s good graces as he’s carved out a rotation spot for himself with nine points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes.

It seems as if Hoiberg will stick with this rotation of players, at least for a little while until Michael Carter-Williams returns from his injuries. If McDermott is the mark of the Bulls’ bench going from bottom feeder to adequate, it should show this month.

“When he’s out there on the floor and we get him coming off screens, it forces the defense to shift as another person they need to be aware of,” Hoiberg said. “It opens up driving lanes for our guys. It was great to have Doug back with us.”

Morning Update: Bulls beat Spurs in Pau Gasol's return to Chicago

Morning Update: Bulls beat Spurs in Pau Gasol's return to Chicago

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