In the aftermath of Mike D'Antoni signing with the Knicks over the Bulls, I was a bit disappointed but not completely. I felt that D'Antoni would've been a good fit, but not a perfect one, and whatever reservations the Bulls braintrust had regarding him were justifiable. Especially when debating whether he should be made the 3rd-highest paid coach in the league.
From what's been reported, most coherently from Chad Ford, is that it wasn't merely money that had D'Antoni going to the Knicks, but also a commitment from their GM and ownership that assured him of little meddling and much spending. Paxson instead, as Ford reports, wanted assurances that D'Antoni would hire a veteran defensive assistant coach. Indications from Phoenix was that D'Antoni didn't like Kerr suggesting the same, so why would he want to deal with similar issues in Chicago, for potentially less money? Now he can go to New York with a roster he knows can be demolished and rebuilt in his image, with nearly no expectations, and some nice coin while striving to become the toast of basketball mecca. Heck, a win in the lottery and the Knicks could wind up being a better roster than the Bulls as well.
I don't begrudge the Bulls for not wanting to give D'Antoni such assurances. Or D'Antoni for going somewhere for such things.
But in classic "why don't you stop talking for a while, champ" mode, Paxson, instead of saying that it just didn't work out, instead whines that he in fact was willing to work with D'Antoni's demands, but didn't have the chance to make an offer:
Team sources claim the Bulls, who were under the impression from D'Antoni's camp that they were the better fit, weren't given a chance to make a counteroffer. Those same sources insist the Bulls were willing to offer a four-year contract.
Reinsdorf was prepared to sign off on Paxson's recommendation and negotiate.
Sources said Reinsdorf came away impressed from his Friday meeting.
Paxson was intrigued enough by D'Antoni's gregarious personality and offensive ideas for Bulls personnel to look past his desire for a practice- and defense-oriented coach.
"I flew out to see Mike last Sunday within hours when I was given permission to do so from [Suns general manager] Steve Kerr," Paxson said in a statement.
"The meeting went very well and I felt we connected on many things philosophically.
"On Tuesday Jerry and I met and, because of our strong interest, Jerry was eager to meet with Mike personally. This morning Jerry and I spoke and agreed that Mike was a good fit and I placed a call to his agent. Jerry wanted to meet with Mike again [Saturday] and talk about a deal.
"Unfortunately, we were never given an opportunity to make an offer of any kind, which is the most disappointing thing in all of this. I thought it would have been fair to listen to what we had to say. But at the end of the day we simply weren't given the opportunity to do so. I now will continue to search for the proper fit for our current roster."
Like I said, to not want D'Antoni on such terms is fine. But to indeed be willing to concede any reservations and agree to 'go for it', only to find out you're too late...what kind of operation is being run here? I mean, did our GM just tell us that he's disappointed and it wasn't fair?
The problem, according to Marc Stein, is that it's one thing to retroactively say you were interested, and another to actually show it:
Paxson said in a club statement Saturday night that the Bulls were denied an opportunity to make a formal offer in the morning before D'Antoni committed to the Knicks. But who said they had to wait all week when New York's rising interest was well known for more than 48 hours?
I've consistently heard the past several days that the slow-moving Reinsdorf's reservations created New York's opening. D'Antoni was Paxson's top choice, as Reinsdorf's trip to Phoenix on Friday to speak face to face with D'Antoni would suggest. But Reinsdorf's typical insistence on a drawn-out "process" approach -- combined with his long-standing reluctance to spend big on anyone not named Michael Jordan or Phil Jackson -- ultimately left the Bulls looking decidedly indecisive (yet again) compared to the eager Knicks.
D'Antoni noticed, too.
There have been persistent rumblings from the start that Reinsdorf didn't want to give his next coach a long-term deal that paid $4 million-plus annually. Sources say it quickly became apparent to D'Antoni, during his sit-down with the owner and a lengthy Friday night conference call with Bulls officials, that the Knicks were offering more passion to go with the money.
Again, I'm not even that upset about Reinsdorf getting involved and questioning the value of paying another coach long-term big money when he just gave a cash prize to the last one after he quit on his team (reciprocated, of course).
But Paxson (who may not deserve all the blame but who is the point man for this organization, and certainly says 'accountability' enough) while I get the need to cover your ass after letting your first choice get away, don't whine about the process(though, at least he didn't blame the internet misinformation). The Knicks were making offers while you were setting up meetings. Merely days after proclaiming (or leaking through sources, anyway) that the Bulls wouldn't get into a bidding war with the Knicks, don't be upset that you weren't able to get into a bidding war with the Knicks. Sheesh.
After the Boylan era went on for about 4 months too long, all I wanted in this coaching search is a return to competence. While there aren't any perfect candidates available, all that Pax's "process" has done so far is letting two at-least 'good' coaches, Carlisle and D'Antoni, go to other teams. And if we can believe these reports, he just lost out on his #1 choice.
Stein reports that the next candidates for the Bulls are Avery Johnson, Dwane Casey, and Tom Thibodeau. What if after interviewing each (and I believe Casey may have already been interviewed) none of them "connect as much philosophically" as D'Antoni did? Not even close?
It's as if Pax thinks he can wait to interview everyone he wants, and then go back and decide who's best. Clearly it's not working out that way.