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Columnist
Just trying to make sense of firing lines
By Mike Imrem | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 12/30/2009 12:00 AM

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The Bulls could fire Vinny Del Negro and the Bears could retain Lovie Smith.

It should be the other way around and likely would be if the teams' respective decision-makers followed their respective consciences.

Look, neither Smith nor Del Negro has distinguished himself as a head coach the past couple of years. A case could be made for firing either or both.

The difference is that Bears GM Jerry Angelo has to believe that he gave Smith better players than the current record indicates. Monday night's victory over the Vikings reinforced that notion.

Meanwhile, whoever is in charge of determining Del Negro's fate with the Bulls can't sincerely insist that he or they made winning the main objective this season.

That goes for all of them - club chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman.

What Bulls management tried to do was steal a season, hoping the NBA East was so bad a playoff berth was possible.

The postseason was important for the revenue that at least a couple of games would generate and as a showcase for next summer's free agents.

Except for the league's legitimately elite teams, this season is all about positioning for 2010-11 and beyond.

So the Bulls wisely declined to re-sign Ben Gordon. That allowed the Pistons to overpay him but left Del Negro short at least one scorer.

Then there is the matter of the Bulls leaving a couple of roster spots unfilled to keep from paying the luxury tax, a dubious decision for a team with such a large operating profit.

Finally there is the strategy to collect expiring contracts of useless or declining players to provide salary-cap room to rebuild with next year.

When the Bulls blew that 35-point lead, Del Negro essentially used only seven players. It was clear why if you looked down his bench and saw who was available.

At least the Bulls have a plan, something uncharacteristic of them, but expecting Del Negro to win under these circumstances is unrealistic and unfair.

The only reason to fire Del Negro now is to fool fans into thinking the Bulls actually care about winning anything significant this season.

OK, so maybe another coach somehow could finagle that final playoff spot, but that still isn't Priority 1.

The Bears' situation is entirely different. At least in Angelo's mind it must be or he would have to fire himself.

Angelo has to be thinking the Bears underachieved this season under Smith, especially after he saw how well they played Monday.

After all, Angelo indicated he was trying to win this year by finally acquiring a potential franchise quarterback in Jay Cutler, who mostly has been terrible under this coaching staff and offensive game plan.

Plus, by keeping his head coach Angelo would be admitting that he and his scouts are terrible talent evaluators.

In contrast to Bulls management Angelo built a roster that to him - correctly or not - made the Bears championship contenders.

So the Bears could employ logic to fire Smith but the Bulls couldn't to fire Del Negro.

Yet logic need not apply considering the reverse appears primed to happen.

mimrem@dailyherald.com