Del Negro out; Bulls begin search for new coach

McHale, Cheeks, Van Gundy on team's shortlist

With the search for a new head coach officially under way, the Bulls are hoping to move quicker than they did in 2008.

That process dragged on for more than a month after the season concluded.

First, they were turned down by ex-Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni, then chose not to call back Doug Collins for a second stint. They finally settled on Vinny Del Negro, a surprise candidate with no coaching experience.

The experiment officially ended Monday when Del Negro was relieved of his duties. Del Negro is expected to join general manager Gar Forman at an 11 a.m. news conference Tuesday at the Berto Center.

Vice president of basketball operations John Paxson also may finally address the physical confrontation he had with Del Negro following a loss at the United Center on March 30. The two argued over the number of minutes given to sore-footed center Joakim Noah.

The Bulls will be working from a shortlist of coaching candidates that includes Kevin McHale, Lawrence Frank, Maurice Cheeks and Jeff Van Gundy.

All four previously have been NBA head coaches - McHale in Minnesota, Frank in New Jersey, Cheeks with Portland and Philadelphia, Van Gundy in New York and Houston. Cheeks is a Chicago native, while Van Gundy reportedly turned down a chance to interview for the 76ers opening.

Some others who might join the list are former Toronto boss Sam Mitchell and Boston assistant Tom Thibodeau.

Among the coaches not expected to draw interest from the Bulls are Collins, Byron Scott and Avery Johnson. The Bulls would have interest in Celtics coach Doc Rivers, but he's under contract for another year in Boston.

The Bulls will be looking for someone who relates well to players, can utilize an up-tempo offense that favors the team's best players, Derrick Rose and Noah, but also stay focused on defense.

If that coach can bring along some recruiting skills, that's even better. The No. 1 priority for the Bulls this summer is to land one of the top free agents from a list that includes LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson and Carlos Boozer.

When the Bulls ended their season with a narrow Game 5 loss in Cleveland last Tuesday, Del Negro refused to complain about his tenuous job status.

"I don't worry about that, to be honest with you," he said. "How anybody wants to judge that, they'll judge it and we'll move on. I've been too fortunate in my career and my life to worry about those things."

In two seasons on the job, Del Negro posted identical 41-41 records and reached the playoffs both times. His job security seemed to be in grave danger last December after a brutal four-game stretch that included a home loss to 1-19 New Jersey and a pair of 30-point blowouts.

Two weeks later the Bulls nearly set an NBA record by squandering a 35-point lead in a home loss to Sacramento.

But Del Negro got the Bulls back on track and they won five road straight games against Western Conference opponents in late January.

Del Negro met with Forman on Monday morning and was given the news after lunch. The coach sat down with Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf on Sunday and made a pitch to continue as coach into the third year of his contract.

The Bulls are planning to continue a front-office transition, with Forman making more of the key decisions, while Paxson evolves into a consultant role.

Several Bulls publicly supported Del Negro's return, including Rose and Noah. Most of the players were noncommittal, though, during exit interviews with Forman and Paxson last week, according to sources.

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<li><a href="/story/?id=378068"><b>ROZNER:</b>Del Negro had no experience ... and no chance<span class="date"> [5/3/10]</span></a></li>