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Here is the full transcript of my interview with former Bulls head coach Vinny Del Negro. Whether you loved Vinny or couldn't stand him, it's clear that he still wants his former players, and for that matter his former coach, Tom Thibodeau to do well. As for Bulls executive VP John Paxson and GM Gar Forman, well, that's a different story.
Q:How would you describe the emotional roller coaster you've been on over the past two months?
VDN: Just trying to cram a lot of things in, with the summer league and getting situated in LA and the interview process, [talking] with the players and everything else, so it's been non-stop but that's just part of the deal.
Q:But the low of being let go in Chicago and the high of landing a job in Los Angeles -- Do you ever get used to something like that even though you've been in the league as long as you have been?
VDN: I don't know if you ever get used to it. It's a different situation for me. I that knew that [decision] was coming [in Chicago]. Those decisions are out of my control. And you just go and work hard and do the best you can to help to make the team as successful as possible. I still have a great relationship with the players and saw a lot of them this week, so it was great to see some them, but you move on. You live, you learn, you try to do a better job and hopefully, I'll do a better job with the Clippers.
Q:Why do anything with the Clippers right now? Why take another job right now?
VDN: I enjoy the challenge. It's a great opportunity. It's one of the jobs I looked at that I thought had some potential. Great practice facility, great building, great city, young players. I think we can trend up. So I thought it was just a good fit for me to get back in.
Q:Given what happened in Chicago and heading into your new job with the Clippers, how do you think you're perceived by the NBA world at the moment?
VDN: Oh, I don't know. I don't get into that. That's for other people to talk about and all the critics and all the people. I know from talking to enough coaches and enough people in the business how they perceive things in Chicago, but that's irrelevant. What's relevant is my focus now is with the Clippers. I was talking to Tom [Thibodeau] a lot tonight about the [Bulls'] players and trying to help him. I've known Tom for a long time and want him to do well. A great city Chicago, great fans, so I want Tom and especially the players -- the league is about the players and you want the players to continually improve and do well.
Q:Have you talked to any of your former players like Derrick Rose or Joakim Noah?
VDN: Oh yeah, yeah absolutely.
Q:One of the strengths last year on your team was defense, is it ironic to you that the Bulls would bring in a guy like Tom who has built up a reputation as a defensive guru? Is that something you look at or is all of that stuff in the past for you?
VDN: Oh yeah, that's in the past. I'm moving on. That's Tom's responsibility now. Tom has paid his dues as an assistant coach and been a fantastic assistant coach for a lot of different teams. Being a head coach is much different, and he knows that. That's why I talked to him and will do whatever I can to help him, because I think highly of Tom and want him to do well.
Q:If you could offer him one piece of advice heading into the Chicago job, what would it be?
VDN: I don't know if there's one piece of advice. Tom's a hard worker, he'll be well-prepared. The development of the guys is always important, whether it's in Chicago or anywhere, but Tom has a good grasp of things, he's been in the league a long time. I'm focused on what I can control in LA, that's my focus.
Q:Looking back over the last couple of months, were you comfortable with the way John Paxson handled everything at the end? (At the news conference announcing Del Negro's firing, Paxson publicly apologized for a confrontation between himself and Del Negro after the Phoenix game on March 30.)
VDN: It's irrelevant to me now. What happened, happened. John came out and apologized and you move on. Obviously, there's things that everyone probably could have done a better job with, but some things are out of your control. It's unfortunate, but there's no sense in going back on those things, it's time to move on and I'm focused on the Clippers.
Q:Is there anything you look back on specifically and say I would have tweaked this or done that differently?
VDN: Yeah, you're always trying to find ways to improve individually so you can help your tam get better. But is there one specific thing, not really. The team was built different each year with the trades we had to make and to clear cap space and all the things we tried to do. There's probably not one thing, there's a number of things, but none that would have made a huge difference either way.
Q:How would you describe your relationship with Gar and Pax going forward?
VDN: There's no relationship. The relationship was broken and you move on. Enough has been documented about that. They have their things that they have to focus in on and I have mine so it really doesn't affect any one of us either way.
Q:From afar, how did you think the Bulls did in free agency and were you surprised that one of the big three of that class, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh didn't end up there?
VDN: It's another situation where those things are out of anyone's control. The cap room was there, but at the end of the day they still added a quality player in [Carlos] Boozer. Obviously, [Kyle] Korver and [Ronnie] Brewer and things, but they lost some pieces as well. Losing Kirk will be a factor, you never know how it's all going to come together, but they definitely needed a low post scorer. Now you have Taj [Gibson] coming off the bench who I thought had a great rookie year for us. A different situation, but the free agency [period] was a little bit crazy for everybody. The dust is settling a little bit, but at the end of the day the team is improved tremendously because when you add a player like Boozer, Korver and Brewer and the development of the younger guys now, having a few years under their belt, that's all positive.
Q:How weird is it going to be for you to face the Bulls this season?
VDN: It won't be. A little bit going back to Chicago, just because you put your heart and soul into things, but like I said, I want them to do well. I have a lot of respect for the fans and things. But when we play them, I'm with the Clippers, and my focus is to do whatever I can to help our team be successful now. That will be it.
Q: You've said plenty of times that you're a fighter, you enjoy challenges. You know the history of the NBA -- is that one of the biggest reason you decided to take the Clippers job?
VDN: Maybe. Who knows? It felt like the right thing. I had good meetings. I felt comfortable doing it. Like you said, I didn't need to do it, but I wanted to. I love the challenge, and I love the opportunity to work with these young guys, try to get the organization to go in the same direction, going in a better direction, than they have been in the past. But I feel very proud of the direction I did in two years in Chicago. When I took the job over, everything's well-documented, but two playoffs, development of the players, a bunch of cap room for them to move forward and make their team better and I'm proud of that.
Q:Is there a specific memory you'll always remember from your two year stint in Chicago?
VDN: I think my staff did an excellent job with the players in terms of their development, with the nucleus of young players and the way they improved, obviously making the playoffs twice. The great fans in Chicago, the great tradition, but also the experience and the people that you meet. The great people of Chicago, the great city, the great restaurants, the friends, the people that you come into contact with. Those memories you can't take away. The two playoff series, the Boston series, the Cleveland series all those things. Seeing those players go through that and as a first time coach going through that those are invaluable experiences.
Q: What will you miss the most?
VDN: That's a tough question. I'll miss a lot of things there, no question. But I'm looking forward to the big challenge I have in LA with the Clippers and seeing if I can help them start getting their organization moving in the right direction with a lot of young guys, but a nice core of guys. We still have to do a lot of work in free agency ourself and the better players we can get, obviously the better coach overall you're going to be. Hopefully that will happen.
Q: Do you have any doubts that this job may turn out the same way the Chicago one did in the end, or do you think this is the right place for you in the future?VDN: Well, we'll see. You never know. It's a very difficult business, it's a very difficult job. It won't be for a lack of preparation, organization, loyalty, all the things I did in Chicago. I'm just going to go at my job, do what I can with my coaches, to get these players moving in the right direction with the organization and at the end of the day ownership and management have to make decisions and then you move on.