Paxson apologizes for altercation

Updated: May 5, 2010, 9:50 AM ET
ESPNChicago.com

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Chicago Bulls vice president of basketball operations John Paxson apologized on Tuesday for a physical altercation he had with Vinny Del Negro, who was fired as Chicago's head coach on Monday night.

Bulls general manager Gar Forman held a news conference Tuesday to discuss Del Negro's firing, and he said the altercation on March 30 after a game against the Phoenix Suns had nothing to do with Del Negro's dismissal.

After the game, Paxson confronted Del Negro about playing Joakim Noah more minutes than was allowed as he recovered from plantar fasciitis. There are conflicting reports as to whether Paxson or Del Negro was the aggressor.

"I want to apologize to fans and Vinny for what happened March 30 after the Phoenix game," Paxson said. "I hold myself accountable and responsible. I am not at all proud of how I handled the situation. I felt that at the time I was representing and standing up for a policy we put in place. I felt that way.

"But there's no question I was wrong in how I handled it. During the incident, I was not proud of the language I used or how I represented myself or the Bulls. And if I could have that moment back, I'd take it back. It was a heat-of-the-moment type of thing, and it's something I'm not proud of."

The incident became public on April 13, and much of the fallout was critical of Bulls management.

"You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who cares more about the Bulls organization," Paxson said. "That's why I'm most embarrassed, because I put the Bulls in a bad position with the way I did handle it.

"I just wanted to today to make a public apology. I talked to [chairman Jerry Reinsdorf] and Gar immediately after the incident, and apologized to them."

Paxson would not go into detail about the incident.

"As a player, ever since I was a little kid, I was always the type of player who would scrap and claw and fight to protect myself and get to where I was," he said. "And those things are fine when you're playing, but obviously it's not in this situation.

"I learned from it. I'm not perfect, I make mistakes, and I did in this instance. I'll learn from it and move on."

Paxson also said he will be with the Bulls for years to come.

"I don't believe an incident or a couple of incidents of losing my temper define who I am," Paxson said. "I think I've done a lot of good things.

"I'm comfortable with who I am as a person. I know the people I work with every day, and that I've worked with for a long time, have respect for me. Because I have treated them the right way. In this instance, I didn't treat Vinny the right way. And I'm sorry for that. It's not a proud moment."

Paxson said he didn't step forward immediately after the incident because he didn't want to be a distraction.

"I laid pretty low after the incident, because I did not want to disrupt anything," he said. "And especially the night someone broke that story, I wasn't going to try to draw more attention to the situation. It would have been unfair to our players. "

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