May 4, 2010, 1:51 PM EDT
Speaking publicly for the first time since the March 30 incident, Bulls Vice President John Paxson apologized to Vinny Del Negro, the Bulls organization and its fans.
“I hold myself accountable, and responsible,” Paxson said. “I am not at all proud of how I handled the situation.”
The situation was after a game against the Suns when Del Negro played Joakim Noah more than the 35 minutes he was allotted per game by Bulls management. Noah was recovering from plantar fasciitis, which led to the limits being imposed on the coach.
Paxson confronted Del Negro in what turned into a physical incident.
“I felt at the time I was standing up for a policy we put in place, but I was wrong in how I handled it,” Paxson said.
Paxson would not get into the details of who said what at the press conference (which I watched online). But now that Del Negro has been fired, Paxson could afford to come forward and seem to take the fall. It was really Del Negro that took the fall, he got axed. Logic dictates this troubled relationship was a part of the reason Del Negro was fired, even if the Bulls people deny it.
Paxson said his role with the team now — as it has been before the season started — was not to be involved in the day-to-day operations of the team. He added that the transition has been hard for him.
“My role now, is more of an extension of (Bulls owner) Jerry (Reinsdorf), to keep an eye on the organization and to make sure we go about things the right way,” Paxson said.
Paxson said this incident should not define him. It probably won’t. The next coach the Bulls hire will.
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