Del Negro thanks Bulls on his way out
DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Moments after Chicago Bulls brass discussed the firing of head coach Vinny Del Negro on Tuesday, Del Negro stood outside the Berto Center practice facility and thanked the organization.
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"I just want to come out and say how grateful I am to [chairman] Jerry Reinsdorf and the Chicago Bulls," Del Negro said. "They have a lot of great people in the organization.
"I'd be remiss not to say how grateful I am to the players, as hard as they worked and developed. I feel very strongly that the organization is in a much better place now than it was two years ago when I started. I'm proud of the things we accomplished as a team. I'm proud of the players though, they put the work in, and they have a bright future."
Del Negro went 82-82 in two seasons, leading the Bulls to the playoffs both years.
This past season was marred by an apparent rift with the front office that was punctuated by a physical altercation with vice president of basketball operations John Paxson after a game on March 30. Paxson apologized Tuesday for his role in the incident, which involved playing time for the injured Joakim Noah, but Forman said that incident had nothing to do with Del Negro's dismissal.
"The decision I came up with as far as where we're at and where we want to go, is that in order to improve we needed to make a coaching change," Forman said. "So [Monday] night, I informed Vinny that we were going to relieve him of his duties as head coach."
Forman wouldn't put a timetable on the coaching search, despite the fact the Bulls have positioned themselves to be a major player in this year's star-studded free-agent market, which opens July 1.
Derrick Rose evolved from No. 1 draft pick to rookie of the year to the Bulls' first All-Star since Michael Jordan under Del Negro's watch. Noah also blossomed into an inside force, and Taj Gibson earned first-team honors on the all-rookie team this season.
"I know how hard my assistant coaches worked to support me, to support the players, to develop the players and I think there's a lot of positives with the development of the young core of guys that you have here," Del Negro said. "So I'm very happy and pleased about that and proud about that.
"Last, the fans, the United Center, playing in front of sold-out crowds. Number one in the league in attendance. They've always been very supportive of the Chicago Bulls and they should. There's a great history and a great tradition with the organization. And that's it. I just want to come out and tell Jerry and the Bulls how grateful I am for the last two years and now you move forward and you grow from experiences. I just want to say thank you to Jerry and the Bulls."
Forman said that as of late Tuesday morning, he already received 20 messages from coaches or representatives looking to fill the team's coaching vacancy.
Cross one name off the list of candidates. Former Bulls coach and current Lakers coach Phil Jackson told ESPN.com's J.A. Adande that he's not interested although he felt it's a good position for someone.
"I can't see that as an image or even as a prospect," Jackson said of coaching anywhere except in Los Angeles.
Forman also said he expects Del Negro will get another head coaching position in the NBA soon, and he said the Bulls would provide a positive recommendation.