Chicago Bulls

Bulls Preparing for Lengthy Coaching Search

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Bulls Preparing for Lengthy Coaching Search

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

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

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.

Doug Collins returns to Bulls as senior advisor

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USA TODAY

Doug Collins returns to Bulls as senior advisor

In a surprise announcement, the Chicago Bulls have brought former coach Doug Collins back into the fold, naming him a senior advisor to Executive Vice President John Paxson.

Collins was a coach with the Bulls and regarded as one of the best basketball minds through his various stops through the NBA as well as his commentary for Turner Sports and ESPN. Collins held front office authority in Detroit after the Pistons drafted Grant Hill, so he's familiar with the inner workings of the NBA.

More importantly, he coached Paxson during his three-year tenure as head coach, from 1986-1989, so one can presume Paxson will value Collins' expertise and opinions. The two sides have been discussing a role for quite some time, so although the announcement is a surprise, the marriage didn't come together hastily.

Collins is expected to be an extra voice in the room, doing a lot of observing and one can assume, bridging the gap many believe exists between the front office and coaching staff. Collins has residence in Chicago, with his son (Chris) coaching the Northwestern Wildcats so it's also a matter of convenience as well.

“We are pleased to have Doug return to the Bulls and have him join our front office. As our organization transitions into this next phase, we feel like Doug will bring valuable perspective with his vast knowledge of the NBA and the game of basketball,” said Paxson. “His enthusiasm and expertise make this a great fit for the Bulls. As an advisor, he will regularly contribute observations, insights and suggestions, and he will be part of conversations throughout this building. I know from talking to Doug he is excited to join us at this time, and we look forward to tapping into his experience to help improve this team.”

One can liken it to the Golden State Warriors bringing in Jerry West as a senior advisor several years ago, and West's influence was felt at the executive level as the Warriors continued their climb to the top of the NBA. West is perhaps the NBA's most decorated executive in the modern era, having shaped the Magic Johnson-led Lakers of the 1980's to five championships.

West has since moved into the same role with the Los Angeles Clippers, as he'll assist them in reshaping their franchise after the trade of Chris Paul.

Clearly the Bulls are not at the stage of development the Warriors were when West joined, starting what could be a long and arduous rebuild. Needing more knowledgeable and trusted voices in the room is what they were looking for, and presumably they feel Collins has been around today's NBA long enough to provide insight on a changing league.

“Doug will be great in this capacity for our organization. The position of ‘senior advisor’ has proven to work well around the NBA in recent years, and I am confident the same will hold true with the Bulls,” said Chicago Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf in a statement. “The fact that our relationship goes back more than 30 years certainly helps, but he is especially qualified to assist our leadership in rebuilding the Bulls.”

Lottery reform might not be all bad for rebuilding Bulls

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USA TODAY

Lottery reform might not be all bad for rebuilding Bulls

At first glance, reports of the NBA pushing for major lottery reform might seem like terrible timing for rebuilding teams like the Bulls. The league's competition committee is trying to come up with a system that will discourage teams from tanking to improve their odds of winding up with the best possible draft position.

Under the current plan, the team that finishes with the worst record has a 25% chance of winding up with the top pick and selects no lower than fourth. The odds then decrease for teams that finish between two and 14.

The new plan would flatten the odds for the bottom four teams, all given a 14% chance to win the top pick in the lottery. The idea is teams will no longer have an extra incentive to lose if it doesn't help them end up with better draft position.

But here's where the Bulls come in. Even though the new plan is expected to be approved by league owners, it won't be implemented until the 2019 draft. That's crucial for a Bulls' team that is likely to have one of the worst records in the league in 2017-'18, but could improve pretty quickly with some good fortune in the summer of 2018.

If the Bulls land a Top 3 pick next June, they could draft one of two elite forward prospects, Missouri's Michael Porter Jr. or Duke's Marvin Bagley III, or 18-year-old international star Luka Doncic. Then they could go into free agency with somewhere between 40 and 50 million dollars of cap space to land a couple free agents to give the roster a big time boost.

I understand the Bulls' record in free agency has not been all that great over the years, and they're not going to convince LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Paul George or Russell Westbrook to come to a rebuilding team. But with so few teams expected to have significant cap space, why couldn't the Bulls make a run at next level stars like DeMarcus Cousins, Isaiah Thomas (if healthy) or DeAndre Jordan? Plus, they could always go the route of adding two solid rotation players like Avery Bradley, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Wilson Chandler or Danny Green rather than shoot for one max contract All-Star.

Say the Bulls get Porter Jr. in the draft to handle the small forward spot, then sign Cousins in free agency to play center. All of a sudden you've got a starting line-up of Cousins, Lauri Markkanen, Porter, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn, all lottery picks. At that point, the Bulls wouldn't be thinking about finishing near the bottom of the league to improve draft position. They'd be thinking about what moves they could make to get back to the playoffs.

So, when you read these articles about lottery reform, don't look at it as a huge negative for the Bulls. If all goes according to plan, they'll only have one season of being in strong contention for the No. 1 pick, and the rules aren't expected to change for the 2018 lottery.