So here it is, a week since Vinny Del Negro was named coach of the Chicago Bulls and people are still saying, "Huh?"
What, was Bill Nye the Science Guy unavailable?
The Bulls hired a man with the same coaching experience as my outdoor grill.
That's what you call thinking outside the box. In fact, thinking outside the solar system.
Truthfully, there's a lot to like about Del Negro. How can you dislike a guy named Vinny? No showy nickname like "Killer" or "Dead-eye." Just Vinny. Like your cousin.
Besides, the man seems humble. Rather than getting defensive, or blathering about his qualifications, he acknowledged public doubts by saying at his introductory press conference, "I think that's fair. I haven't coached before." It's hard to find guys who admit they're a risk.
Even Pete Chilcutt probably thought he was a bargain when he played for the Jazz.
At the same time, you have to ask: Couldn't the Bulls find anyone with a coaching resume? Instead, they chose the assistant G.M. for the Suns, which is strange considering he wasn't among the four finalists in their own coaching search.
The Bulls are a team with an estimated value of $500 million. How many $500 million companies would hire a CEO based almost solely on personality and potential?
Compared to other NBA coaches, Del Negro's $2 million salary is fairly frugal. But for someone with zero experience, it's still a great deal. According to Forbes magazine's figures, he won't earn as much as Starbucks boss Howard Schultz ($98.6 million), but will make roughly the same as eBay CEO John J. Donahoe ($2.07 million).
In that light, I've concluded my career prospects are soaring. I might, for instance, become an "American Idol" star. Never mind I've never sung anywhere except the shower. Maybe I should try for president of General Motors, because I kind of like cars and drive them a lot. Or speaker of the House. After all, I watch C-SPAN.
People apply all the time for jobs they have no hope of getting. It's reminiscent of the "Seinfeld" episode where George Costanza is job hunting.
George: I like sports. I could do something in sports.
Jerry: Uh-huh. Uh-huh. In what capacity?
George: You know, like the general manager of a baseball team or something.
Jerry: Yeah. Well, that that could be tough to get.
George: Well, it doesn't even have to be the general manager. Maybe I could be, like, an announcer. Like a color man. You know how I always make those interesting comments during the game.
Jerry: Yeah. Yeah. You make good comments.
George: What about that?
Jerry: Well, they tend to give those jobs to ex-ballplayers and people that are, you know, in broadcasting.
George: Well, that's really not fair.
Neither, some would say, is hiring coaches with no experience. But it happens. Danny Ainge had all of eight games as an assistant coach with Phoenix before being named boss. He went on to compile a 136-90 record and guide the Suns to three playoff berths. Avery Johnson had just five months as a full-time assistant assistant in Dallas before replacing Don Nelson. He compiled a nifty 194-70 record.
Then there's Magic Johnson, who didn't have any coaching experience when hired by the Lakers. He quit after 16 games.
But for everyone else, it's hard to even get a cashier's job without prior experience.
Del Negro isn't a basketball novice. He played 12-plus seasons in the NBA. So did Benoit Benjamin, but I probably wouldn't trust him with my $500 million investment.
None of this should be terribly surprising. Strange things happen in the NBA. It's a who-you-know kind of business. Del Negro might even turn out to be a great hire. I'm hoping he does.
The way I have it figured, when Jerry Sloan quits, I may send in my resume.
As the saying goes, if you shoot for the moon, you'll land among the stars.
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