No coach, no problem for Bulls

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:53 PM ET

In terms of attracting one of the many big-time free agents poised to hit the open market on July 1, Chicago is as attractive as any team.

In terms of history, fan base and market size, it doesn’t get any better than Chicago.

And that’s no Bull.

Vinny Del Negro did a nice job of nurturing these young and athletic Bulls under some trying circumstances.

In two years, Del Negro took his team to the playoffs twice, scaring the heck out of the Boston Celtics last spring and getting the Bulls to provide resistance against the Cleveland Cavaliers this post-season.

But a change was needed in Chicago because of the profound changes this summer’s free-agent bonanza presents.

The NBA’s best-kept secret was made official on Tuesday, when GM Gar Forman held court with the media in Chicago to announce Del Negro’s departure.

As one might expect, no timetable for a replacement has been set because none is needed.

Sometime between the crowning of a champion and the start of free agency, a successor will be named, perhaps even sooner, but time is not of the essence in Chicago.

There are enough names, recycled as they might be, who will jump at the opportunity of taking the Bulls to the next level.

Chicago took a flyer on Del Negro, who had no experience, and it could be argued that he did more with less, even if Del Negro couldn’t post a winning record.

The team overachieved in last spring’s opening round against the Celtics because Ben Gordon could not be stopped and Derrick Rose came of his age as a rookie.

Gordon cashed in as a free agent when he bolted to the Detroit Pistons, while Rose used the playoff platform to become an all-star this season.

“We’ll try to make our decision in as timely a fashion as possible,” Forman said. “We’re not going to be in a rush. What I would tell our fans is that we’re going to be looking for the best coach, the best leader, the best teacher that fits this team and this personnel.”

Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich, Joakim Noah, James Johnson, Taj Gibson and Rose are the only players under contract next season, giving the Bulls much-coveted cap space and flexibility.

Chicago sacrificed whatever chance it had of post-season success at the trade deadline by ridding itself of John Salmons and Tyrus Thomas, moves that were strictly based on clearing salary.

The stage, it would appear, is set for the Bulls to re-emerge as a relevant franchise, which has been elusive since the days of Michael Jordan.

The basketball buzz was rekindled last spring in Chicago, but it now has the potential of spreading over an extended period, not just as a fleeting phenomenon.

If things don’t pan out in Atlanta for Joe Johnson, Chicago becomes an option.

In Miami, if the Heat isn’t able to get a running mate for Dwyane Wade, perhaps the opportunity of returning to his native city is too tempting for Flash.

The possibility of Chris Bosh ending up in Chicago cannot be ruled out, either.

While no market is bigger than New York, the Knicks’ approach hinges on the team acquiring LeBron James, the biggest domino this coming summer.

If the King decides to leave Cleveland for the Big Apple, it’s inevitable another big-time free agent will follow James, accompanied by veterans who might be willing to accept less money at the chance to win a title.

But next to New York, there’s not a more alluring spot than Chicago, where quality core pieces are in place.

Finding a successor to Del Negro can’t be understated, but in the big picture it’s secondary to the potential change that awaits the Bulls.

At the end of the day, NBA players are driven by money, despite what they say about longing to play in a winning environment.

For a big-time player to change teams, a sign and trade must be engineered to max out financially.

You need pieces and options and the Bulls have them, even if they don’t have a head coach.


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