Chicago Bulls: Vinny Del Negro
Del Negro was hired by the Bulls in 2008 with no coaching experience. He had previously been the Phoenix Suns assistant general manager. The Bulls went 82-82 and had back-to-back first-round playoff exits under Del Negro. He was fired in May of 2010 after two seasons.
Now in third season with the Clippers, Del Negro thought his time with the Bulls was valuable and had helped him become a better coach. The Clippers are currently 14-6 and in fourth place in the Western Conference.
“I think just the experience of doing it, you know,” Del Negro said prior to Tuesday’s game at the United Center. “When I started here, I had never coached before. Thrown into a great franchise with great history in a great sports town, you jump in and you go for it. Learned a lot, very fortunate, very grateful to Jerry giving me the opportunity.”
"He deserves it," Del Negro said before Saturday's game. "I thought he was close last season or so; Jo definitely deserves it. Statistically, energy at that position. I'm a big fan of Joakim's, always have been, just because of his enthusiasm and his effort and he's a worker. He brings great energy every night, which is contagious."
Del Negro, who coached Noah for two seasons before being fired after the 2009-2010 season, has always been a fan of the emotional big man.
"Jo's a worker, always has been," Del Negro said. "He plays with great energy, great enthusiasm and he's getting that little jump hook, his shot seems more comfortable and he's just very active. So, especially with a couple guys out for Chicago he's taken more of that scoring role for him and he's obviously more than capable."
Del Negro seemed to be in a very relaxed mood Saturday against his old team -- why shouldn't he be? As he pointed out, the Clippers are having a solid season and that's without veterans Grant Hill and Chauncey Billups.
"Terrific," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said of the job Del Negro's done. "He's done a great job here, he really has. I think he's gotten his team to play extremely hard, they're playing smart, they're playing together, I think he's done a great job."
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"My biggest thing is winning," Rose said. "I could care less about the matchup. In this league now, every point guard is good. So tonight just try to get the win."
While Rose deflected questions about the matchup, others went out of their way to praise two of the best point guards in the league.
"Both are star players in the league," Los Angeles Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. "Both are not only great players, but workers, leaders. Great guys. I have a lot of respect for both of them. [I'm] just starting to work with Chris a little bit, but you see how Derrick's game evolved. And Chris is a tremendous leader and very competitive. That's why they're both two of the top players in the league. Forget about their positions. They'll go at it tonight which will be great, but every year is different and every team is different."
Paul switched coasts and conference after being dealt by the New Orleans Hornets to LA for package headlined by Eric Gordon. Paul's new surroundings don't mean Rose is going to change the way he plays him in any way.
"When you play against him, you've got to stop his passing," Rose said. "He's a guard where he doesn't need to score the ball to win a game. It's hard to stick that. I think him and [Rajon] Rondo are the best [at doing that] in the NBA. They don't have to shoot not a single shot and still can affect the game and give their teammates a lot of confidence. That's something that I would want to put in my game, but it's going to take a little time."
Paul and Rose faced off only once last season -- the Bulls were 2-0 against the Hornets but Paul missed one of the contests with an injury. In their one meeting, a 97-88 Bulls win, Rose went for 23 points and six assists while holding Paul to 15 points on 3-of-10 shooting.
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, who is obviously one of Rose's biggest fans, praised the way Paul plays the game as well.
"A guy like that, he's an offense unto himself," Thibodeau said of Paul. "He can make something out of nothing. In terms of executing a pick and roll he's tremendous. He keeps constant pressure on your defense. His decision making is excellent. And he has a great feel for the game too. If he feels that he needs to score more, he'll score more. If he feels like he needs to play-make more he'll do that. He's a fierce competitor. He sets the tone defensively. I have a lot of respect for him."
LOS ANGELES -- Derrick Rose's memory is almost as mighty as his midrange game.
He remembers intricate details of particular games the way Greg Maddux remembers throwing a 3-2 curve ball to a batter in a game from 15 years ago. When it comes to basketball, Rose remembers the highs, but mostly he remembers the lows. He thrives off the memories of feeling bad because he never wants to feel that way again.
Rose vividly recalls the game at home last season against the Los Angeles Clippers (on Dec. 18) in which Rose missed a free throw at the buzzer that would have sent the contest into overtime.
"I remember that," he said before Friday night's game against the Clippers. "It sticks with me. I remember. Then we came back here and won. But this year it's a whole different team. They have other players, traded players or whatever and it should be fun out there tonight.
"I remember everything," Rose said. "When I play, I'm a quiet guy so I try to think of anything to get me going. I definitely remember that."
Rose took it a step further.
"I hold grudges, man," he continued. "I'm quiet so I just got to look for anything to get me going."
Has anyone actually talked any trash to Rose yet?
"It hasn't happened yet," he said. "I don't talk on the court so they don't have anything to say to me. I guess that's a good thing."
Rose looks up to Billups: Chauncey Billups did not play Friday night because of a sore groin, but that didn't stop Rose from giving Billups a lot of praise. The pair grew close during Team USA's run through the World Championships last summer and it's clear that the reigning MVP has a soft spot for the veteran.
"Chauncey was the guy on the road where everybody looked up to him like their big brother, especially all the guards," Rose said. "He knows a lot about the game. Won a championship. Chauncey is a professional where he takes everything serious. Wants to win. And that's a guard I look up to."
Rose notices the MVP change: Rose admitted he is seeing even more aggression early on this season from opponents.
"They're playing more aggressive," he said. "If anything, they're loading the whole side. Wherever I have the ball, you have two people on you. In pick and roll, if it's not where I'm coming off and it's just me and a big they're showing to a trap sometimes so it's kind of different but I'm learning."
VDN faces old team: Clippers' head coach Vinny Del Negro said he didn't feel any differently about this game, against his former team, than he would in any other. He did mention that he wants to add an addendum to the "Lob City" moniker which has become so popular of late in describing the Clippers' new style.
"I hope it's win city," Del Negro said. "Not lob city. If lobs help us win games, then great."
Rose is just happy to see his former coach having the chance to succeed.
"I'm happy for him," Rose said. "There's very, very high expectations [in Los Angeles] but he should be fine. He's got the right players. It will be interesting to see what's going to happen."
LOS ANGELES -- The last time the Bulls played the Clippers on Dec. 18 they lost. That's not even the worst part in Derrick Rose's mind. What compounds the problem for Rose is that he missed the potential game-tying free throw right before the buzzer. It's a shot that he clearly hasn't forgotten about.
"I think I'm supposed to hit every shot like that towards the end of the game, especially a free throw," Rose said before Wednesday's shootaround. "It gives me something to think about. Just knowing how that feels after the game, being mad, I think it helps you grow as a player. Knowing that you can't feel any worse than that, walking off the court, and you see everybody putting their jackets on. and just leaving because of you. And it hurts, man. If anything, it makes me stronger."
Rose and the rest of his teammates feel like they owe the Clippers one, especially given that they seem to have figured out how to play without Joakim Noah. The first game Noah missed was the loss against the Clippers.
"We got to get this one tonight," Rose said. "I think we let that one slip back at home, so it gives a chance to get a little revenge back at their place."
Rose has kind words for VDN: Count Rose among the people who are a least a little surprised that former Bulls and current Clipper head coach Vinny Del Negro has had early success, (at least over the last month) in Los Angeles.
"A little bit," Rose said. "But I take my hat off to him where they're playing decent basketball right now. They beat some of the best teams in the NBA, if not all the best teams and they're dangerous, especially at home."
Rose believes that Del Negro has grown as a little bit as a coach since coming to LA.
"It tells a lot," Rose said of Del Negro's progression. "I'm happy for him. It's got something to do with the coaching, especially with the way they're playing right now. Putting the right people, putting the right guys out there together. I'm happy for him and everybody that's over there."
Del Negro is just glad to see some of his former players doing well. Like everyone else, he praised Rose for playing at an MVP level. He isn't surprised by the fact that Bulls are having success, especially given all the injuries they've dealt with.
"They've played most of the season really not whole," Del Negro said. "Carlos [Boozer], early, was hurt, and now Joakim is out. Derrick has kind of put the team, it seems like, on his shoulders. They've got good production [from other players]. Kurt Thomas has given him minutes and different guys are stepping up so that doesn't surprise me [that they've had success]. Derrick and Joakim and Luol and Taj are great kids, great character guys, workers. And they're kind of the core of the team and then they went out and added some pieces to make them stronger."
Rose feels good: Rose said he ate his first whole meal on Tuesday night at his agent, Arn Tellem's house.
"My stomach really isn't hurting right now," he said.
Thibs downplays coach of the month award: Tom Thibodeau was named Eastern Conference coach of the month for the month of January on Tuesday, but, as usual, he downplayed the accomplishment.
"I think it's more a tribute to our team," he said. "I think the fact that we had a good month, I think when you do that, it helps get recognized. I think it's helped Derrick get recognized as an All Star and hopefully it will help Luol and Carlos as well."
Speaking of accomplishments, Taj Gibson was named to the Rookie/Sophomore Game during All-Star Weekend on Tuesday as well. He played in the game last year in Dallas and is looking forward to spending All-Star weekend in LA.
"It was a great experience," he said. "Just to be chosen with those guys from the coaches around the league, it means a lot. So I'm happy to be going back."
The last word: "Very happy. People have been sending me pictures. My girlfriend, my mom have been sending me pictures of the snow there and it's terrible there. So I'm happy I'm here, for sure." -- Rose, on how happy he was to get out of Chicago just before the big storm hit.
He made the first free throw without any problem and then the crowd hushed as he put up the second one. As soon as he put the shot up, he knew it probably wasn't going in.
Rose's teammates know that over time, he'll make more clutch shots than he'll miss.
"He makes that shot nine out of 10 shots," Carlos Boozer said. "We'll put it in his hands again. I have confidence he'll come through for us. He's already won so many games for us. I don't worry about that at all."
Having seen Rose hit so many big shots, it was stunning to almost everyone in the building that he actually missed the most important one of the night. Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro was sure that Rose would send the game into an extra session.
"Absolutely," Del Negro said. "Derrick's a clutch player. He has ice in his veins. It goes to show you how difficult it is at times for anybody. At some time in your career, when you're a player of Derrick's caliber, you're going to miss some. But he'll keep taking them and he won't hesitate at all."
VDN returns: No one was quite sure how Vinny Del Negro would be received before Saturday night's game, given how his tumultuous two-year tenure with the Bulls ended last season, not even Del Negro himself. He received a mixture of boos and cheers and seemed to take it all in stride. There was no question though, that winning in the United Center meant a little more to him.
"Probably just because of the situation of me coaching here the last couple years," he said after the game. "But like I said before, it's about the players. It's about them performing. I'm happy for the guys, they've been working hard in practice."
Gibson is woozy: Taj Gibson suffered a concussion during the third quarter Saturday night and it may sideline him for a few days. He was hazy after the game, admitting that he couldn't remember much about the incident which sent him out of the game.
All I remember is being in the training room and I'm sitting out,” Gibson said. “I don't remember ... everything's coming and going in my mind right now."
The last word: Del Negro, on possibly coaching two of the past three Rookie of the Year award winners in Rose and Blake Griffin.
"You're fortunate,” Del Negro said. “Players win games. I've said that all along. But the thing with Derrick and Blake that is similar is: one, they're great guys, and two, they work. And as a coach, when you have those two components and when you have those guys as players it makes your job that much easier. Because they're just going to improve. Like I said when I was here with Derrick, he's going to work. He's in the gym; he's setting off the alarm at the Berto Center to get in there and shoot. Same thing with Blake; he's in the gym all summer working on his game. And his game will continually mature and get better. And that's the exciting part of it."
But Del Negro said that hasn't happened. He has moved on after being fired by the Bulls and is trying to figure out how to turn around the Clippers.
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Tom Thibodeau continues that trend as he makes his debut Wednesday on the road against a tough Oklahoma City Thunder squad.
Click here to see a photo gallery of Bulls head coaches since Doug Collins making their Chicago head coaching debuts.
Tom Thibodeau makes his coaching debut Wednesday. He will be Chicago’s eighth different coach since Jackson left.
Surprisingly, at least to those who haven't followed the Bulls much over the past year, that answer is easy.
It's Taj Gibson time once again.
Gibson, the 25-year-old second-year forward from USC, shouldn't have any problem filling in for Boozer. He started 70 games last season and became a favorite of former Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro because of his defense-first mentality and positive attitude.
There's no question the Bulls will miss Boozer's presence in the post -- he would have given the team a consistent low-post scorer that they haven't had in years -- but Gibson will be steady in his absence. He averaged 9 points and 7.5 rebounds last season and did so while battling plantar fasciitis throughout most of the year.
After rehabbing all summer, he says he feels great once again and his offensive numbers should get a boost because he's been religiously working on his mid-range jumper during the offseason.
Boozer's injury also puts even more of a spotlight on Joakim Noah. He will be asked, as he was last season, to snare every rebound that comes anywhere close to him. His role on defense won't change much, and his continuity with Gibson, having already played with him for a season, is only going to help.
But Boozer's presence was to supposed to take some of the pressure off Noah down low and give him more of a breather on the offensive end. With Boozer out, the pressure will be on Noah to prove that all the time he spent in the gym this summer working on his post moves pays off over the first month of the season.
Aside from Noah and Gibson, expect new coach Tom Thibodeau to shuffle the lineups even more and give Kurt Thomas a few more minutes a game, at least in the beginning. The Bulls are keeping a close eye on Noah's feet, given his well-documented problems with plantar fasciitis last season, and it's hard to imagine a scenario where he starts the season averaging close to 40 minutes a game. Thibodeau is probably going to use Thomas, and possibly rookie Omer Asik, to spell Noah and Gibson.
As Thibodeau noted Sunday, he may even use Luol Deng at power forward if he is looking to use a smaller lineup during some points of certain games.
While you try to digest all the possible scenarios, there are two main issues that Bulls fans need to keep in mind.
1. Any fan still holding out hope that the Bulls will deal for Carmelo Anthony for Noah, Deng and either Gibson or James Johnson probably needs to put those dreams to bed.
The Bulls will be leaning on those players more than ever right now and it would be foolish to trade Noah with Boozer unavailable for eight weeks, and maybe longer, once he rehabs his way to 100 percent health.
2. The Bulls are lucky to have Gibson. He is a well-liked member of the team who is going to have no problem sliding into Boozer's place for the foreseeable future. He shouldn't have any issue with Thibodeau's system and will continue to be a fan favorite because of his hard-nosed style.
The bottom line is that while Boozer's injury will be hard to overcome, especially given all the expectations placed upon this team before the season, the Bulls don't have as big of an issue as many think. This injury doesn't force the Bulls to go out and make another roster move -- they already have the right man in place for the job.
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.
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.
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.
Do you define your time in Chicago a success or failure? I view it as a big success for me personally. I had the opportunity to coach one of the most successful franchises in the game and I was able to help that team develop its young players, make two playoffs when no one expected that. I don't care what anybody says -- they didn't expect that. I'm proud of my assistant coaches and the work they put in. I'm proud of my development. When I see Derrick Rose or Joakim Noah or Taj Gibson or Luol Deng -- the guys who really improved in a lot of ways. That organization is in a much better position now after the two years I was there than it was when I get there.
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Here are a few reasons why the Boston Celtics' assistant will be introduced as the new head coach of the Bulls once the NBA Finals end:
Celtics forward Glen Davis may have summed up the team's feelings towards Thibodeau best.
"I have no trouble following a guy who knows exactly where he's going," he told the Boston Globe.
2. More than a defensive guru: Thibodeau made a name for himself, at least nationally, by essentially being the defensive coordinator for the Celtics. But if you ask his peers, there is far more to him than simply being a defensive whiz. The Bulls wouldn't have decided on him unless they liked what they heard when he started talking about his offensive principals. Rivers and former NBA head coach Jeff Van Gundy, who hired Thibodeau in New York and Houston, made it a point in recent weeks to go out of their way to praise Thibodeau for his ability in other areas of the game as well. One of the biggest knocks on former Bulls head coach Vinny Del Negro was that he didn't run a very imaginative offense. It will be interesting to see how Thibodeau incorporates Derrick Rose and any prospective free agent into this new era of Bulls basketball.
3. Basketball is his life: Thibodeau is the first guy to enter the gym in the morning and the last one to leave at night. Ask most people about Thibodeau, and his work ethic is one of the first things that they will mention. That's not a knock on Del Negro, who was also a very hard worker and routinely put in long hours, but Thibodeau sounds like the type of guy who will watch game film until his eyes bleed. He has earned a reputation as a workaholic and that will probably fit in nicely alongside Rose, who is regularly the last player to leave the Berto Center.
4. No NBA head coaching experience? No problem: Thibodeau may not have much head coaching experience (just one season as a head coach at Salem State), but he does have plenty of coaching experience as he gets set to lead the Bulls. He has been an assistant coach/scout for nearly three decades, and the organization must feel confident that he can impart that wisdom on its young core of players. The biggest knock on Del Negro was that he had no previous coaching experience before he was hired by the Bulls two years ago. He was learning on the job, and he had troubles at certain points, especially in his first season, with game situations.
In an ironic twist, Thibodeau actually coached Del Negro when he played with the San Antonio Spurs in the early 1990s so it will be interesting to see if the pair ends up discussing the job at some point in the next few weeks.
It was widely assumed that the Bulls would go after someone who had previous head coaching experience, especially considering that actually passed over Thibodeau two years ago when they hired Del Negro. But in the end they must have felt as if Thibodeau gave them the best chance to win right now. Surely there will be some fans who wonder why it took so long for Thibodeau to land a coaching job, but I thought Van Gundy gave the most direct answer when the Orlando Sentinel asked him that very question recently:
"He's a serious-minded professional but in the job market, that's almost been construed as a negative," Van Gundy said. "In that, he's too serious. Now when you start getting knocked down for being too serious about your job, then you know we have a problem in America.
"He has a good way with players, particularly star players. He's direct and honest, but he has a very good sense of humor."
That is what the Bulls are banking on, and that is probably one of the biggest reasons why they've decided that he is the right man for the job.