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Bulls' front office dispute gets disputed, situation gets uglier

Apr 15, 2010, 11:28 AM EDT

UPDATE 4/15 11:28 AM: During interviews last night, Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro denied the reports that he was the aggressor, saying  “That’s 100 percent false.” Apparently both sides have now hired lawyers, as has the team.

This is not going to end well. But at least it didn’t come as a distraction at the worst possible time of the season… oh wait, it did.

4/14 8:10 pm: Dysfunctional.

There really appears to be no other word for the relationship between Bulls vice president John Paxson and coach Vinny Del Negro. Following a report yesterday on Yahoo saying Paxson threatened and physically went after Del Negro, backers of Paxson told ESPNChicago the original report had it backwards and Del Negro was the aggressor.

However, a source close to the situation disputed who initiated that argument, and said that it wasn’t the first altercation Del Negro has had with management. The source said that Del Negro and Bulls general manager Gar Forman had an altercation in Forman’s office that was similar, but did not give details.

“So this was not the first time [Del Negro] exhibited this behavior,” the source said.

Bulls GM Gus Forman comes off as the powerless man in the middle, issuing the “why can’t we all just get along?” statement today.

“The Chicago Bulls are focusing all of our energies into the remainder of this season and, as such, were disappointed at the recent stories that may have distracted from that…

“The event occurred in coach Del Negro’s office, not in the locker room and not in front of the players, as some wrongly have reported. This disagreement, while not communicated well by either party in the heat of the moment and in the immediate aftermath of a tough loss, was a result of conflicting views, but all based on the fine balance required to ensure both the immediate and long-term success of the team and the health of its players.

Just to add to the fun, David Stern said today the NBA is looking into this.

From the outside, it’s almost impossible to discern the truth, and almost never is one person completely at fault. This is fast becoming a situation where the owner needs to step in and put his foot down, make a decision and get rid of one or both of them.

Time for somebody in the Bulls organization to be an adult.

  1. Edward C. Stengel - Apr 15, 2010 at 12:33 AM

    It looks to me like the Bulls organization is acting like the typical establishment – the higher up you are the more excuses they
    make for you, and the lower down you are the more they try to discredit you. The propaganda machine is in full throttle. Now they say Del Negro had arguments with Bernie Bickerstaff, and that’s
    supposed to mean that he must have started the fight with Paxson. I
    don’t believe it. When you attack your superior, it’s almost certain you’ll be fired. That wasn’t the case here. It must have beeb Paxson who attacked Del Negro, and since Paxson is the higher up in the establishment, they’re downplaying the incident. It’s typical of all power structures – always take the side of higher-ups.

  2. Dave - Apr 15, 2010 at 12:40 AM

    I love the Bulls and fully support the job Vinny has done this year getting them to the playoffs. The guy is classy, never throws anybody under the bus and has dealt with so many injuries, losing key players and this other crap like a real man. Paxson has never impressed me as an executive, he needs to go and Vinny should stay.

  3. Aaron W - Apr 15, 2010 at 9:16 AM

    The Bulls organization should be bowing to the feet of Vinny Del Negro for getting a team so young and thrown together into the post-season. Executive VP (and former worst G.M. in the N.B.A.) John Paxson, along with his lackey Forman, have done little to improve a team that just a few short years ago seemed to be on the cusp of prosperity. Between the 2006 Sefolosha draft “triumph,” the Ben Wallace signing, the LaMarcus Aldridge/Tyrus Thomas draft gaff, and the decision to ink Deng to All-Star money, the franchise has been teetering on the brink of irrelevance (sans a good Celtics series in the play-offs). Yet, somehow, in the aftermath of Myers/Skiles/Myers/Boylan coaching carousel, after Paxson gave his G.M. title to his lackey Forman, after losing their top scorer (Gordon), after losing his replacement (Salmons), after losing his “power forward of the future” (T. Thomas), and after having his only legitimate big-man defender go down to injury (Noah), Del Negro somehow got this team to grind out a .500 record and eek out the last play-off spot.
    Paxson and Forman are executives, physical confrontation is intollerable in any office, and they must be held accountable. The city of Chicago should be running Pax and Gar out of town on a rail and begging Del Negro to stay. He’s been enormously underappreciated in the Bulls organization since the 2nd month of his first season as their head coach. ‘Da Bulls are lucky to have a coach that smoke and mirrors his team into play-off experience and play-off dollars. I wonder if Reinsdork is paying attention, of still duting off that Charles Oakley photo in his office?!?

  4. Bernice E - Apr 15, 2010 at 10:44 AM

    With the disrespect and manner in which management has treated its coaches, what coach in his right mind would want to come to Chicago?

  5. G Guillen - Apr 15, 2010 at 11:54 AM

    No other words to say but the owner of this BULLS team must FIRE PAXSON AND FORMAN right away.

  6. TPS - Apr 15, 2010 at 3:33 PM

    I’m a Bulls Season Ticket holder – 30+ years – and loved Paxson as a player, but this time, I’m with Vinny. Consider:
    -The Celtics series in last years playoffs; Gordon was the star; now he’s gone wasn’t replaced.
    -Two starters were traded in mid-season (Salmons, Thomas) for players that have been on a number of teams (Warrick, Murray), yet they were worked into the mix effectively.
    -Noah has become one of the best “moving” centers in the NBA.
    -Rose has developed into his potential (doesn’t always happen with great prospects).
    -Gibson is far beyond where anyone expected.
    -Most teams would have quit after a late-season 10-game losing streak, but the Bulls didn’t; they continue to play for Del Negro.
    Now, Vinny might not be personally responsible for all of these, but they happened on his watch, and that’s the bottom-line, isn’t it? Noah played 2-minutes over the 25-minute mandate, and now I want to kick your butt?!?!; gimmie a break!!! Get over it, John and back-off. Vinny’s smart enough to hire excellent assistants and doesn’t need your help. How about concentrating on making a decent deal for a change? Paxson needs to only think back to Krause’s attempted “meddeling” with Jackson’s Teams in the 90’s. Plus, he can’t hire a coach he gets along with, yet he didn’t want to be the coach. Reinsdorf needs to “get involved”, make Paxson apolgize in public and tell Paxson that Vinny is the coach, period.

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