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Del Negro just not equipped to fix this mess
By Mike Imrem | Daily Herald Columnist

Vinny Del Negro and Ben Gordon


Associated Press

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Published: 1/27/2009 12:00 AM

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When an NBA team is a mess, the head coach has to have certain qualities to help it rise above its talent.

One is the ability to strike fear into players. Another is the ability to con them into believing they're better than they are. Most important is the ability to project a compelling presence.

I'm not around Bulls head coach Vinny Del Negro much, but I don't perceive any of those characteristics in him.

That would be complimentary except toward someone trying to coach this silly gaggle of Bulls that general manager John Paxson assembled.

Del Negro and Paxson are in an unwitting race to determine which will be out of his job first.

In Paxson's case it would be because he has had enough. In Del Negro's it would be because somebody noticed he is the wrong guy at the wrong time.

Then again, who is qualified to coach this motley crew?

Would Mahatma Gandhi have been? No, these Bulls would stampede all over him, or worse. Would Charles Manson be? No, he'd stampede all over them, or worse.

Someone between a Gandhi and a Manson? Yes, that's it, someone between a pacifist and a mass murderer.

Del Negro fits in there somewhere but lacks the certain "it" that would command the Bulls' respect.

Last week Del Negro suggested that reporters ask players whether they respect him. We don't have to. If they did, Ben Gordon wouldn't publicly air a disagreement with him and others wouldn't cavalierly break his team rules.

Paxson is at fault for foisting Del Negro on the Bulls and the Bulls on him - bad chemistry all around.

Remember, these essentially are young players. That doesn't mean inexperienced. That's the coach. The players are immature. They have been around a few corners and down a few blocks but give no indication they know where they're going.

Mixing immature players with an inexperienced head coach begs disaster.

What is there for a player to respect here anyway? Del Negro hasn't won NBA titles as a coach and wasn't a Hall of Famer as a player.

Scott Skiles didn't have extensive coaching credentials when he arrived as Bulls coach, nor did he have a much better playing career than Del Negro had.

But when Skiles walked into a room, you knew he was there. The chest he stuck out might bruise your elbow.

An uncomfortable uncertainty accompanied Skiles. He was more collected than he seemed, but players still never could be sure he wouldn't go nuts and throw fits or even punches.

If a coach can't lean on a fear factor, all that remains is to con players. He must be able to fool a group of world-class athletes into doing what he needs them to do.

Phil Jackson plays head games with players, manipulates their minds and deceives them into buying, or at least tolerating, the dime-store philosophy he peddles.

Jackson might not be any more intellectual than Del Negro is, but he had players thinking he was.

Skiles and Jackson are gone, so let's consider who else might be able to coach these Bulls.

Ah, yes, Gov. Blago tricked voters into electing him twice and he'll need work soon, so maybe the Bulls would play better under him.

They couldn't play worse, could they?