Bulls Preparing for Lengthy Coaching Search


Bulls Preparing for Lengthy Coaching Search

Tuesday, May 4, 2010
6:18 P.M.

By Mark Schanowski

Now that Vinny Del Negro has officially been let go, who do you think the Bulls should hire as their next head coach? Please post your choices in the comments section below, or feel free to send me an e-mail.

My choice would be Jeff Van Gundy, who's spent the last three seasons entertaining us as one of the lead analysts on ABC and ESPN's coverage of the NBA. Van Gundy won in New York and Houston, and his self-deprecating wit would play well in a big-city market like Chicago. Plus, he's coached some big stars in the past like Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson, Allan Houston, Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady. The knock on Van Gundy is that he plays a slow-down style and tends to wear on his players with his demanding approach. But after two years of my cousin Vinny, maybe a demanding coach who emphasizes defense is exactly what the Bulls need. Derrick Rose is already an All-Star, and has established himself as one of the top five point guards in the league. But Derrick needs a coach who will force him to improve his deficiencies on defense, and Van Gundy might be the right guy.

If not Van Gundy, how about Maurice Cheeks, a Chicago native who is currently working as an assistant coach on Scott Brooks' staff in Oklahoma City? Cheeks was an outstanding point guard with the 76'ers in the 80's, and he's been a head coach in Philadelphia and Portland. Surely, he could work with Rose on improving his defensive skills, and would play the up-tempo style the Bulls' front office seems to favor. Cheeks is also one of the classiest guys in the league, and would represent the organization well. Who will ever forget him grabbing the microphone in Portland to sing the national anthem with a young lady who forgot the words in a case of stage fright?

We will be hearing all kinds of names in the coming days and weeks, but don't look for Doug Collins to be one of them. Negotiations to bring Collins in two years ago fell apart, and we've heard Doug might have been the choice back in December if the Bulls had pulled the trigger on firing Del Negro. It doesn't sound like the 58-year-old Collins wants to go through the drama for a third time, and he's reportedly "intrigued" about the idea of coaching the 76ers, the team that drafted him into the NBA back in the early 70's. Collins met with Philadelphia officials for five hours at his Arizona home last Saturday, and he's also talked with the New Orleans Hornets about the coaching vacancy.

Bulls General Manager Gar Forman made it clear at Tuesday's news conference that he would be the guy heading up the coaching search, not V.P. of Basketball Operations John Paxson. Which means some of the names that have been rumored as leading candidates may not be quite as accurate anymore. We've heard the Bulls did a lot of background research on former NBA head coaches Lawrence Frank and Eric Musselman. Frank had only moderate success in New Jersey, while Musselman was a washout at Golden State and Sacramento. And if they were among Paxson's favorites, that opinion might not hold true for Forman.

Forman says he's not putting any limitations on the search, and would be willing to talk to current NBA assistants and college head coaches. He also didn't rule out the possibility of waiting for coaches still in the playoffs, like Boston's defensive-minded assistant Tom Thibodeau or the ultimate prize, 10-time NBA champion Phil Jackson, whose contract with the Lakers runs out at the end of the playoffs. Any way you look at it, the stage has been set for a lengthy search with lots of twists and turns before we reach the finish line.

Should Bulls Fans Root for Celtics?

If you're like me, and actually believe the Bulls have a shot at signing free agent superstar LeBron James, should we root for the Cavs to get knocked out by Boston in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals? The commonly held belief around the league is LeBron will re-sign with Cleveland this summer, but if the Cavs get knocked out early, James might be forced to take a long, hard look at the current roster. Shaq is 38, Antawn Jamison is 34 and the rest of the team is filled with mediocre players, with the exception of point guard Mo Williams, a talented but inconsistent scorer. LeBron might decide he has a much better chance to win championships if he leaves Cleveland and joins forces with D-Rose and Joakim in Chicago or Baron Davis, Chris Kaman, Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin with the Clippers.

We've heard a lot of speculation about the possibility of Dwyane Wade returning to Chicago, but from everything we've heard, he's staying in Miami, and will probably be joined by at least one other All-Star caliber player in free agency this summer. The Bulls' best hope of becoming an instant contender lies with LeBron becoming dissatisfied with his prospects to win in Cleveland, and searching for a new team. He's been effusive in praising the Bulls' young talent during the regular season and playoffs, and we know he truly likes spending time in Chicago. It might be a long shot, but crazier things have happened in the NBA.

As always, I'd love to hear what you think about the coaching search or the Bulls' plans for free agency. We'll print some of your suggestions in future posts.

Morning Update: Bulls win season opener; World Series returns to Wrigley

Morning Update: Bulls win season opener; World Series returns to Wrigley

Complete Cubs-Indians World Series Game 3 coverage on CSN

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Dwyane Wade's 'perfect storm' makes his debut a dramatic one in Bulls' win

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Bulls physicality a new wrinkle from last season

How Kyle Schwarber is such a ‘baseball rat’ that Cubs used him in their draft war room

Together again: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane reunite on top line vs. Devils

Cubs 'can't imagine' what Wrigley Field atmosphere will be like for World Series

Bulls physicality a new wrinkle from last season

Bulls physicality a new wrinkle from last season

College teammates Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder made plans to go to dinner after Thursday’s game in Chicago but for a few short moments they weren’t just competitors but unexpected combatants, getting tangled up in the second quarter.

There looked to be some harsh words exchanged after Butler took a charge on an unsuspecting Crowder near three-quarter court, with Crowder putting the basketball in Butler’s chest while Butler was still on the floor, causing players on both teams to convene for some tense moments.

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas got involved and then before Butler could blink, Bulls guard Rajon Rondo joined the proceedings, as pushing and shoving ensued before technical fouls were assessed to both teams after an officials’ review.

If one wondered whether these Bulls—a team that touts itself as young with so many players having three years or less professional experience—could play with some bark and bite, perhaps the season opener provided a bit of a positive preview for the next 81 games.

Nearby, an unbothered Dwyane Wade took a practice 3-point shot, much to the delight of the United Center crowd, as observers witnessed the first sign of tangible proof the Bulls have intentions on regaining a bit of an edge on the floor.

Wade joked and took it as a sign of respect between the two teams.

“It looked like it, right? Yeah. It was a little something out there,” said Wade when asked if there was some chippy play. “Every time we play them it’s gonna be like that. Two teams finding their way in the Eastern Conference. We know we gotta see each other a lot. They never give up. They can be down 30 with 15 seconds left and they’re still gonna fight.”

The Bulls have externally preached toughness from the start of camp. Although Wade didn’t participate in that meeting of the minds, he isn’t exactly running away from such matters.
And Rajon Rondo is competitively ornery enough to have his voice hard no matter the setting.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

“It’s been a big theme of practice,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We want to play with physicality and toughness. I think it was evident on the glass tonight.”

Yes, the Bulls outrebounded the Celtics by 19, but that could’ve been a by-product of the Bulls’ crashing the offensive glass on a porous shooting night. And yes, the slightly tense moment between Butler and Crowder probably won’t be an expected occurrence.

But when’s the last time one had multiple examples to dissect to discern this team’s level of toughness—or lack thereof.

“That’s something to show that the guys are out there fighting for each other,” Hoiberg said. “That they were playing with an edge. It happens with this game. You have to be competitive.”

Competition boiled over slightly, but considering the NBA isn’t exactly UFC, one doesn’t have to do much to display a little physical resolve.

“The fact that nothing escalated was good,” Hoiberg said. “The fact that those guys are out there and playing for each other and have each other’s back, that’s a huge thing right now.”

Too many times last season, it seemed the Bulls would submit in situations like those. Not that they were particularly soft, but it didn’t appear they had the collective will to fight for one another if an altercation arose.

Half the time, they looked like they could barely stand to be in the room with each other.

“It’s people’s will to win. Not saying a bad thing about anybody from last year,” Butler said. “To tell you the truth, I study the game and put in a lot of work but Rondo studies the game a lot. Every time I’m in the gym, he’s in the gym. That lets me know, these (dudes) are going to war with you. Every day. When I hit that deck, Rondo was right there. I wanna play with guys that’s gonna play hard, that’s gonna fight.”

And it didn’t take long for Butler to realize he has at least a couple teammates willing to jump in the foxhole with him.