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Columnist
Del Negro had no experience ... and no chance
By Barry Rozner | Daily Herald Columnist

Vinny Del Negro is done after two seasons as coach of the Bulls.

 

GEORGE LECLAIRE/gleclaire@dailyherald.com

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Published: 5/3/2010 9:42 PM

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Vinny Del Negro leapt from his chair and immediately signaled for a timeout.

He had the look of a coach completely in control of the situation.

There were only 3.8 seconds left in Game 3 after Mo Williams hit a 3-pointer, and the Bulls led Cleveland 107-106.

Del Negro had a plan and he was deep in the middle of it.

He was decisive. He was bold. And he was wrong.

Again.

What he apparently didn't know was that Cleveland was out of timeouts, and by calling one he gave the Cavs a chance to set up their final sequence.

They knew they'd have to foul on the inbounds play, let the Bulls shoot free throws, and then go the length of the floor with little time.

That's much more difficult to with no chance to discuss it, but Del Negro gave them a free timeout and the opportunity to design a play for LeBron James, who was hitting half-court shots like normal humans shoot jump shots.

A couple of veteran NBA execs I know were sitting near the team benches when Del Negro made his move, and they were laughing at the Bulls.

Fortunately for Del Negro, after the Cavs fouled Luol Deng on the throw-in, Deng missed the second free throw - he was trying to make - and instead of Cleveland getting the ball to James with enough time and a set play, the ball bounced off the rim and right to Anthony Parker.

He had no time to find James, so Parker scrambled to half-court and missed a 42-footer that would have won the game for Cleveland.

It worked out for the Bulls, but it was pure folly, and just one of hundreds of examples of Del Negro's incompetence.

That time luck was on Del Negro's side, but he never had much of it during his two years as coach of the Bulls, a reign that officially ended Monday, but a firing that has been in the works for more than a season.

Over the next few days, Del Negro will be blamed for his poor decisions, awful rotations, reluctance to develop the bench, failure to save starters' minutes, and playing an injured Joakim Noah too much.

His players chuckled at his play calls, and sometimes simply ignored them.

He had no control over the team when the bench taunted James during the regular season, a move that failed miserably. But not having learned from that incident, they did it again in Game 2 and all James did was go off again and bury them.

OK, stupid idea to begin with, taunting The King, but did Vinny see the foolishness in doing it again? Did he prevent it?

Del Negro had to be fired, and not because of the confrontation initiated by John Paxson.

Del Negro had to be fired because he wasn't a good coach.

Maybe someday he will be, but not any time soon and not here.

He did make the playoffs twice despite some horrible roster decisions by Paxson, and his players played hard for him despite his lack of knowledge.

Which brings us back to Paxson, the real villain in all this.

All together now, it was Paxson who couldn't find a coach, couldn't make a decision, and hired a man with zero coaching experience.

It's Paxson who has failed repeatedly at doing his own job and set Del Negro up for failure in the process.

Vinny was doomed from the start, and in the end it was impossible not to feel sorry for him.

The final relevant play of his final irrelevant game said it all, when Derrick Rose passed on a chance to take a 3-pointer down 3 points in Game 5, drove the lane and missed a shot in the waning moments that wouldn't have done them much good anyway.

When Rose failed to get the bucket or the foul, Del Negro shook his head in disbelief, a sight seen frequently the last two years.

As the game concluded and the Bulls were eliminated, Vinny walked off the floor with his head down, probably knowing the Bulls never really had a chance.

The same can be said for Del Negro.

brozner@dailyherald.com

• Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM.