CHICAGO Vinny Del Negro has accepted his first head coaching job, agreeing to take over a Chicago Bulls team that went from 49 wins to 49 losses in a season and missed the playoffs after making the second round in 2007.
Bulls general manager John Paxson plans to introduce Del Negro as the team's new coach at a Wednesday afternoon news conference, team spokesman Matt Yob said Tuesday.
His selection ends a drawn-out search in which the Bulls' high-profile courtships of Mike D'Antoni and Doug Collins collapsed.
Paxson did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment. Del Negro, whose voicemail box was full Tuesday, did not immediately return a page.
Del Negro, most recently the Phoenix Suns' assistant general manager, interviewed for the job last week and quickly moved to the top of the list after Collins and chairman Jerry Reinsdorf decided to pass on a reunion.
Del Negro had been interested in replacing D'Antoni on the Suns' sideline but did not make general manager Steve Kerr's list of four finalists. That job went to Terry Porter.
Instead of guiding a Western Conference power, Del Negro takes over one of the league's biggest disappointments this past season.
A sluggish start cost coach Scott Skiles his job in December, and interim coach Jim Boylan got fired April 17, but the Bulls' luck took a turn for the better when they won the draft lottery.
With the coaching situation resolved, they can turn their attention toward this month's No. 1 pick and deciding between Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley.
Del Negro, who played for Jim Valvano at N.C. State, averaged 9.1 points in a little more than 11 seasons for Sacramento, San Antonio, Milwaukee, Golden State and Phoenix. He also played in Italy.
Trying to assess Del Negro's coaching style would amount to speculation, but his hiring might be a letdown for fans who wanted D'Antoni or Collins.
The Bulls were poised to make an offer to D'Antoni in early May only to see him jump from the Phoenix Suns to the New York Knicks before hearing chairman Jerry Reinsdorf's presentation. Collins, who coached Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen before they started collecting championships, emerged as the leading candidate a few weeks later, but a deal fell apart.
Concerned that a second tenure would strain their friendship, Collins and Reinsdorf broke off talks Friday.
Paxson also had Sacramento Kings assistant Chuck Person and former Minnesota coach Dwane Casey in for second interviews, but Del Negro shot past them.
He inherits a team that expected to contend in the Eastern Conference after a first-round playoff sweep of Miami in 2007 Chicago's first series victory since the championship era and a six-game loss to Detroit in the second round. But the high hopes quickly turned into empty promises.
The Kobe Bryant trade rumors and failed contract negotiations with Luol Deng and Ben Gordon who turned down five-year extensions worth more than $50 million set a bad tone the Bulls could not change.
The unselfishness and hard-nosed defense that defined them in recent years was missing. Individual agendas took over, and players argued with each other and their coaches.
Joakim Noah, last year's first-round pick, lashed out at assistant Ron Adams in January and was initially suspended one game before teammates voted to make it two. Noah also clashed with Ben Wallace, who went to Cleveland in the Larry Hughes trade. And just last month Noah was arrested in Gainesville, Fla., for having an open container of alcohol and also was charged with marijuana possession.
Tyrus Thomas skipped practice, Chris Duhon missed a shootaround the day after he attended a Duke-North Carolina game, and Andres Nocioni had words with Boylan during a game. Duhon is an unrestricted free agent who probably won't be back.
It's hard to say whether players who tuned out Skiles and Boylan will respond to a rookie coach. Then again, it's not clear how many of them will be with the team next season. Paxson figures to make a few roster moves besides choosing between Rose or Beasley, assuming the Bulls keep the No. 1 pick.