Bulls' Forman in search of coach, leader and teacher
Following an “up and down” season which ultimately culminated in the team’s fifth postseason appearance in six years, General Manager Gar Forman confirmed on Tuesday what many had long anticipated, that Vinny Del Negro had been dismissed as head coach after two seasons on the job.
Forman informed Del Negro of the decision on Monday evening after internal meetings with players, coaching staff and Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf concluded.
“I had a chance to sit down and evaluate where we’re at today and where we want to go,” said Forman. “In doing that, the decision I came up with as far as where we're at and where we want to go, is that in order to improve we needed to make a coaching change.”
Forman acknowledged that the Bulls are in a better position than they were two years ago when Del Negro got the job. However, he felt a change was necessary in order for the team to reach a new level.
“We'll try to make our decision in as timely a fashion as possible,” said Forman. “With that said, in my mind, there is really no rush to make a decision. We won’t be giving updates, but what I will tell our fans is that we're going to be looking for the best possible coach, leader, and teacher we can find that fits this team and that fits our personnel.”
Forman said that the process would start within the coming days and that the organization was excited about what this summer—in which the Bulls will have enough money to offer at least one maximum contract to one of a few top-tier free agents—might possibly bring.
“I believe the biggest commodity you can have in building a basketball team is cap room and financial flexibility,” said Forman. “They give you a chance to get better and we feel we’ve put ourselves in that position.”
Forman cited the team’s young core of players led by All-Star guard Derrick Rose and center Joakim Noah, along with Chicago being a world-class city, as compelling reasons in which free agents may want to consider the Bulls. He also admitted that free agency could have an impact on the process that lies ahead.
“I think it’s a factor,” he said. “But as we go out and start this coaching search, I don't want it to be about that. I want it to be about finding the absolute best coach that fits this team and personnel. My concentration will be on that. Obviously in the back of my mind, we've got other things going on this summer—the draft, free agency and possible trades. That may become a factor as we go through this process.”
As for the altercation between Del Negro and EVP-Basketball Operations John Paxson on March 30, Forman insisted that it did not factor in to the decision to release Del Negro.
“I want to make it clear—the decision to make a change was mine,” said Forman, who insisted the team’s front office is united. “That isolated situation played absolutely no part in making that change.”
Forman is now tasked with a coaching search that he will lead, but said he’d get ample input from his staff, including Paxson. But the final recommendation that is presented to team Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf will be his.
“The main things I’ll look for in a coach are accountability and leadership,” said Forman. “Will experience be necessary? I don't want to put it in a box today, because I want to have an open mind as far as looking at all the different candidates that might be available. But obviously, a thorough knowledge of the NBA game and NBA players, will be something that will be factored into it.”
Forman and the Bulls will have plenty of options. Though he declined to speak about any specific candidates, he said he had received about 20 messages from coaches and agents about the job. But he stressed that the organization would not make a rushed decision and would not rule out anyone from being considered.
As for Del Negro’s future, he has stated that he does enjoy coaching and is expected to pursue other jobs in the near future. Forman said he handled their conversation on Monday with class and professionalism. He believes Del Negro’s coaching days are far from over.
“I think Vinny will be a head coach again and probably pretty soon,” admitted Forman. “Our recommendation [on his behalf] would be positive.”