Everyone knew it was coming, and now it's official: The Bulls have fired Vinnie Del Negro as their head coach, and will begin a search to find their next head coach who will be charged with continuing to develop Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, and with integrating whatever free agent (they have enough for one maximum contract, or might be able to get two "lesser" free agents) they sign this summer.
So who are the candidates? The list is almost endless. Names I've heard include Mo Cheeks, Avery Johnson, Jeff Van Gundy, Mike Fratello, Doug Collins, Eric Musselman, Lawrence Frank, Sam Mitchell, Eddie Jordan, Byron Scott, Mark Jackson, and many others. I'm sure I'm forgetting some, and as names come to me, I'll probably do a short article on the new candidates.
The most intriguing names are Phil Jackson and Kentucky coach John Calipari. Jackson needs no introduction in Chicago. His contract with the Lakers is up, and there is speculation that perhaps he'd be interested in coaching Derrick Rose. Jackson has all but ruled it out, but then again, Michael Jordan "all but ruled out" a return from retirement the second time he retired. He was next seen with a Washington Wizards uniform on.
Calipari has a lot of connections for those who like to connect the dots. He was Rose's college coach. He has the same agent as free agent targets Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, and is very close to Lebron James apparently. But the article on Yahoo Sports that mentioned this speculation is gone off the site, apparently, and now the reports are that he's in negotiations with Kentucky to remain their coach for a long long time!
I think that I'd be looking for a guy who stresses defense and who doesn't like to take the air out of the ball. An up tempo type coach. That would seem to rule out Fratello and maybe Avery Johnson. But then again, I don't know if it matters who the coach of the Bulls is if they do not get one of those top free agent targets.
National sports talkers name the Bulls job as the most attractive opening in the league. A budding superstar in Rose, a very good role player/energy guy in Noah, some solid building blocks in place with Gibson, Hinrich and Deng, and about 20 million in cap space might be enough to make it a plum job in itself, but then there's the history of the franchise in the 1990's and the city of Chicago, which should be a huge plus to any coach (or free agent, in my opinion).
So...on to the search!