Tuesday, May 4, 2010
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.