Because of the distinction, Del Negro will always hold at least a small place in Bulls history. He was the improbable choice to coach Chicago after the 2007 season, where he went on to guide the Bulls to back-to-back playoff appearances during his two seasons in town before getting fired after the Cleveland Cavaliers knocked Chicago out of the 2010 postseason.
Despite the surface level success of his teams, Del Negro was often painted as clueless. Seeing the triumphs of his successor Tom Thibodeau has certainly done nothing to make Chicago miss Del Negro. But after leading the Los Angeles Clippers to a Game 7 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday to earn the first playoff series victory of his coaching career, Del Negro rightfully felt some level of vindication.
In an interview with Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Del Negro ripped Bulls management for what he perceived as a lack of support in Chicago.
"All that [expletive] that I had to deal with John and everything, it was a total cluster[expletive]," Del Negro told Yahoo! Sports. "Listen, I understand the business: I hadn't coached before, and my first job was in Chicago, where I had absolutely no [management] support. Then I came to this situation, where the history spoke for itself. But I knew it was important to keep working at the craft.
For those that have rightfully blocked out the Bulls' 2008 season, here's the incident Del Negro is referring to:
After a loss to the Phoenix Suns on March 30, an irate Paxson walked into the coach's office at the United Center and confronted Del Negro over a narrow breach of a management-imposed minutes limit on injured forward Joakim Noah. Sources said Paxson first grabbed a hold of Del Negro's tie and seemingly tried to provoke him with two successive jabs into his chest. Paxson was even heard to angrily challenge Del Negro to a fight.
Del Negro always seemed like a nice enough guy during his time in Chicago, though it's hard to argue him as anything but overmatched. Still, I'm happy for him and the Clippers and will certainly be rooting for Lob City to upset the San Antonio Spurs in the second round. More than anything, I'm thankful Del Negro is someone else's sideline general. Thibodeau suits Chicago just fine.