Friday, February 19, 2010
Vinny Del Negro: The full interview
By Nick Friedell
MINNEAPOLIS -- Here is the full transcript of the conversation I had with Bulls head coach Vinny Del Negro on Thursday night after the trade deadline passed. While he didn't come right out and say it, it's clear that he and the organization are confident that they will be able to land one of the big-name free agents this summer. It's also clear that the second-year head coach hasn't given up on this season just yet.
Nick Friedell: How would you sum up what you guys did today?
Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro insists that his team is focused on winning and not on this summer's free agent class.
Vinny Del Negro: Well, I think it works out. You never want to lose players, but I feel we've added some quality players and we've kept and built and expanded our flexibility for this summer. But our focus is this season right now. And we'll handle the rest of that business after this season. You hate to lose quality players, but I feel in our situation, it was the right moves to make. I know Gar [Foreman] and [John Paxson] and the staff worked very hard on it, and I want to see how guys are going to fit in. But I feel comfortable where we're at and now it's a matter of getting the new guys accustomed to how we run things around here and what's expected. And it's going to take a little time, but I expect it to be a smooth transition and get them acclimated to everything as soon as possible.
VDN: Warrick and Murray -- they've played and contributed on teams and they've been around and [I'm] much more familiar with them. Alexander and Law are young players just getting their feet wet in the league. Warrick and Murray, I expect to get them underway here and get them in the rotation as soon as possible and see how it comes together and get them comfortable defensively with terminology and things we expect. Same thing offensively. Play the right way, share the basketball. Both of them have been quality pros and are still, especially Hakim, is still very young and has room for improvement and we want to help him in as many areas as we can. Same thing with Flip. He's a shooter; he's a scorer. He can make shots. With Derrick [Rose's] ability to open the court up, hopefully he'll knock some big shots down for us like he's done with other teams.
NF: To someone who says the organization has given up on this year, you would say what?
VDN: That's false. That would never happen. It's not what myself, the staff, the organization and what the fans expect. The Chicago Bulls are one of the premier franchises ... Giving up or anything is not even mentioned. I expect us to compete at a very high level. I expect us to win games. I expect us to develop our young players like we are and continue to improve in certain areas and get these [new] guys acclimated and fight as hard as we can to find a way to continually get better and give us an opportunity to make the playoffs again.
We've been playing a little bit better on the road as of late. We have to continually do that and also step our game up a little bit at home. But the fans are tremendous. They've been very supportive. Now it's the players and staff and my responsibility to go out there and represent the fans the right way. You do that by giving it all you have, preparing the right way and finding ways to win games. It's a very simple formula but it's hard to accomplish. There's high expectations in Chicago, but people should feel good about the core we kept together, the nucleus we kept together and the ability to advance and get more flexibility in a very important summer as we continually try to improve the team moving forward.
NF: Did you get a chance to talk to Tyrus Thomas before the deal went down?
VDN: No, I haven't had a chance to talk to Tyrus. He was busy with some things. I left some messages for him. I haven't got up with him yet, but I will. The same with John. I talked to John [Wednesday] night. It's never an easy situation. They're good people. They've been very helpful, obviously, in the way they represented the Bulls. You never want to lose good players, but it's a business and it's part of it. And hopefully things work out for them in a positive way.
NF: Do you think Tyrus will ever be able to figure it out?
VDN: The thing with Tyrus is he's very young. He's 24 years old. He's been in the league a while, but he's still young. And he's got to find his way. And long as he finds ways to work and continues to be coachable and continue to work in certain areas and gets better and puts in the time -- he has such great athletic ability. And has the ability to change the complexion on games with his athletic ability.
As he has different coaches or learns different things and grows as a player and as a person, he's a game-changing type of player at times. Hopefully, that consistency will come out as he finds his game a little bit more.
NF: As a coach, how difficult is it to balance trying to win games now while also knowing that the organization is trying to free up cap space for the future?
VDN: It's difficult. It is difficult. But like I've always said, if this was easy, anybody could do it. It's a challenge and I enjoy the challenge, but I'm pleased we kept our nucleus of guys together. And we added a couple guys that have been players in the league. We lost a couple very good players and we added some. We just have to see how it all comes together. There's no easy answers to it. Let's just see how these guys fit in and how they contribute and how it all mixes together and put ourselves in an opportunity on a consistent basis to win basketball games. That's difficult when it happens in the middle of the season, and now you have to try to incorporate some new pieces, but we've done it before. And hopefully this time it will go as smooth as it did last.
NF: Gar Forman came out on Thursday and said, "Vinny's our coach. It's not a story." But, do you wish the organization would come out and say, "Vinny's our coach for the future."? Do you wish they would handle situation some other way?
VDN: All that stuff is out of my control. I don't spend a lot of time with it like I didn't before when it was a much bigger story. I try to prepare and handle the team in a first-class manner [and] help develop the young players [and] find ways to improve individually and as a team. I think my staff has done a phenomenal job with everything that's been thrown at us the last couple of years. And we continue to improve. I can't control what other people do or say. I can just control my attitude and my approach and try to set a good example for a young team and handle the adversity that's thrown at you as a coach and as a team throughout the year in the best possible way and move forward.
I can't worry about what people are saying or what they're not saying or how they're saying it or what's out there. I go about my business and control what I can.
NF: What's a legitimate goal for the end of this year in your eyes?
VDN: Just find a way to continually improve. Find a way to continue to develop these young guys like I always talk about. Continually find ways to improve on the road. I think that's a very, very key component for this young team to build confidence on the road. Road wins are very hard to come by. Hopefully, we'll continue to play well on the road. At home we have a little bit of a different swagger to us, whether it's because we're young or whatever. The fans have great support there and high expectations.
I think we need to set goals in terms of improving. I don't look at wins and losses and how many wins we need or whatever. I expect us to be in contention for a playoff berth. What seed we are I couldn't tell you right now. Everyone's bunched up there. If we play the right way and stay together as a team and incorporate these new players I feel we have an excellent opportunity to go back to the playoffs and then move forward throughout the summer.
NF: Are you confident that with the cap space the team has now, that you guys can convince one of these big-name free agents to come here this summer?
VDN: That will all take care of itself. The first most important thing is getting the space to go and have a game plan together to attract one of the elite players -- whether you get one or not. No one know what's going to happen. That's all getting figured out and everyone will guess and have their opinions, but certain teams have put themselves in a certain position to at least be able to financially afford those type of players. And we're one of them.
So when you have the history of Chicago, the incredible city, the fans, the success of the organization and a great young nucleus of talent, it's got to be a very attractive city for any player. So there's a lot of positives there. All those things will take care of themselves. Everything will be done first-class and professionally to accommodate that this summer, but my focus is not this summer right now. My focus is preparing for the next game and finding ways to help the team get better throughout this season as we move.