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Jerry Reinsdorf Speaks, Do Chicago Bulls Listen?

Posted by sportsmaven on January 30, 2009

Jerry Reinsdorf doesn’t do very many interviews.  Not with the Chicago White Sox, certainly not with the Chicago Bulls.  Jerry Reinsdorf woke up early this morning and gave Mike North and Dan Jiggets an interview on their Comcast Sports “Monsters In The Morning” TV show.  It seems to have been a bit of a disaster, at least for Bulls head coach Vinny Del Negro.

Chicago Bulls head coach Vinny Del Negro wipes his face as he watches his team play.  (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Chicago Bulls head coach Vinny Del Negro wipes his face as he watches his team play. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

In the interview, North gets into the meat of the conversation with Reinsdorf

Mike North: Where would you rate this season?

Jerry Reinsdorf: You want the grade up till today? What’s the lowest grade you can give? This has been a disaster. It’s embarrassing. But it will get better.

Nearly 200 miles away, the Bulls were getting ready for their matchup against the Sacramento Kings.  After their shoot around, Del Negro was asked about Reinsdorf’s assessment.  Chicago Sun-Times staff reporter John Jackson writes in his article in today’s Sun-Times:

“That’s just Jerry trying to motivate and trying to get guys going,” Del Negro said. “Jerry wants to win just like every owner, every coach. It’s not easy. Managing expectations and developing and all those things are very easy to talk about, but they’re hard to do and they take time. Some people are more patient than others.”

I think Vinny got about three quarters of that comment correct.  It is very difficult to manage expectations.  Yes, Jerry Reinsdorf does want to win, and yes, some people are more patient than others.  The motivation part of the statement I absolutely don’t buy one bit.  Honesty is what it is.  Motivation is definitely what it’s not.  It certainly isn’t easy to manage the average ego of an NBA player.  It definitely isn’t easy to manage that ego if you’re a rookie head coach who supposedly carries the label of a “players coach”.  Jerry isn’t the guy that is going to motivate players.  DelNegro is that guy and if he needs Reinsdorf to motivate, that’s an indictment of Del Negro not getting the job done.  It isn’t an easy job, ask Scott Skiles.

The next part of the conversation is what really disturbed me.  Jackson’s transcript of the interview continues with this exchange:

Dan Jiggetts: How comfortable are you with John at the helm?

Jerry Reinsdorf: When you have a team that’s not performing it’s an organization failure. You win and you lose as an organization. But if there’s one person that is not responsible for what’s going on right now, it’s John Paxson. I have tremendous confidence in John Paxson. He’s really one of the best people that I know. He’s a great general manager and a great judge of talent. I just worry that he not be too hard on himself. He takes all of this very, very seriously.

Mike North: To say that he’s not at all responsible … he brought in the players. So are the players not being coached up?

Jerry Reinsdorf: I have a lot of thoughts about that but they’re not thoughts that I really can say publicly. All I know is what we have right now is not good and we have to get it better. They are playing hard in the last half-dozen or so games. We had some games where…

Mike North: You knew they were mailing it in.

Jerry Reinsdorf: They were mailing it in and I felt like standing up and booing along with everybody else. They’re not mailing it in anymore.

This exchange to me, shows how ridiculous Reinsdorf can be sometimes.  The organizations win and lose mantra starts from the top on down.  I didn’t hear Reinsdorf say it starts with him.  He definitely doesn’t hold Bulls GM John Paxson accountable.  It all ends right there with Del Negro holding the bag of stink.  North tried to take it right back at Reinsdorf, suggesting that it might be coaching and Reinsdorf, with the eloquent defense for his general manager, offered no such grace for his head coach.

This whole exchange reminds me of the end of the movie, Titanic.  The ship has hit the iceberg and everyone in charge realizes the ship will eventually sink.  The ship’s captain (Del Negro), doing the honorable thing, locks himself in the bridge, planning to go down with his ship.  The ship’s archtect (Paxson) is last seen standing on the slanted deck of the first class lounge adjusting a clock that stopped, his fate sealed by the iceberg.  It is implied that he too, goes down with the ship.  The ship’s owner (Reinsdorf), who gave the order to speed through the oceans dotted with the icebergs, sheepishly jumps in a lifeboat and saves his life as the ship goes under.  See the parallels?  Accountability starts at the top.  Reinsdorf hired Paxson.  Paxson hired Del Negro.  Reinsdorf signed off on Del Negro.  Reinsdorf is as much a cause of the “disaster” as Paxson and Del Negro.  If he says that instead of that jibberish he said this morning, I would have more faith in his management skills, but alas, it’s yet another example of a lack of leadership and accountability at the top of organizations.  By the way, Bulls analysts Norm Van Lier and Kendall Gill both agree with me.  They said it themselves on tonight’s Bulls Postgame show.

Finally, do you think for a single moment that anyone wearing a red and black uniform really gives a damn about what Jerry Reinsdorf says?  Do you think that Ben Gordon read that interview and suddenly got motivated to drop 50 on the Kings, or to play a little defense?  Do you think Tyrus Thomas or Joakim Noah, or Derrick Rose watched that interview and felt the need to break down the doors to the hotel to sprint to the ARCO Arena to pound the Kings into submission tonight?  Only in your sweetest of dreams.

P.S. The Chicago Bulls pounded the Sacramento Kings 109-88.  Maybe the Bulls were listening a little bit to Reinsdorf….nah, I don’t think so.

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Living The American Dream

Posted by sportsmaven on June 30, 2008

Magnus Midtvedt was a foreign exchange student from just outside Oslo, Norway. Magnus was also a student that lived in our home since the last week of August in 2007. Today, Magnus went home to Norway, 10 months after arriving in the United States and the Chicago suburbs as a young, quiet, shy boy from Scandinavia.

I have been waiting to write about Magnus all year, mostly because I wanted to fully experience the wholeness of hosting an exchange student before putting it to words, but watching Magnus pack for his journey home brought back the memories that he has lived since the day he arrived in the International Terminal at O’Hare Airport last August.

Magnus arrived to the shores of Lake Michigan alone and unassuming. He was very much a young boy, traveling half way around the world to embark on a journey we all knew would be special, but yet he was to begin this journey alone, and amongst strangers. He was brave and courageous to do this on his own, but Magnus had a dream to play basketball in the US and Northbrook, Illinois is where it was to happen for him.

Basketball in Norway is a fledgling sport, still very much at the grass roots level, meaning not very advanced. As a young boy, Magnus fell in love with basketball and with Michael Jordan while watching the movie, Space Jam. Little did he realize that in a few short months, he would be living his American Dream.

Every young boy has dreams of being a schoolboy sports hero, whether on the gridiron or the court. In Magnus’ case, it would be the hardwood of the basketball court. Magnus worked countless hours in our backyard basketball court with the hopes of just making the Glenbrook North High School basketball team. Not only did Magnus make the team, but he developed into one of the best shooters on the team, parlaying that into valuable playing time off the bench and a remarkable run into the state playoffs in a magnificent season of American high school basketball.

Magnus’ shining moment was in the Proviso West Holiday Basketball Tournament this past December. Glenbrook North was scheduled to play Whitney Young, a local powerhouse and a top contender for the Class AA state basketball championship. One of Whitney Young’s top players was G Marcus Jordan, the son of Magnus’ basketball idol. The game was broadcast on Comcast Sports Net, the local sports cable television outlet. Sitting in the stands behind the Glenbrook North bench was perhaps the best player ever to play the game of basketball, Michael Jordan. Magnus entered in the 4th quarter of a one sided game, where he proceeded to hit a 3 pointer in front of his hero and idol. Michael acknowledged the moment with a little fist pump and Magnus was in heaven. There could be no better moment to witness someone living the dream of their lifetime. I was proud to be present to witness such an accomplishment, but also humbled and thankful to experience the rare and wonderful moment of a dream fulfilled.

That moment happened over 7 months ago, and it was one of many, many moments that Magnus has experienced in his brief stay as a member of our household. In my eyes and heart, that was the one moment that will forever define our experience with Magnus. As the parade of newly made friends came to say their goodbyes this afternoon, I watched the completion of the development and maturation of a young man, a boy no longer.

As I walked Magnus to the security line at the airport and said my goodbye, I felt a large part of my existence for the last year was leaving with him. I have to admit that it was a difficult moment for both of us, but more difficult that I would have thought for me. As I watched Magnus go though the security line, I noticed how American he had become – wearing the basketball shirt, the baggy jeans shorts that kept falling down as he took off his belt to go through the metal detector, to hearing one of his favorite new American sayings “my bad”.

As Magnus gathered his belongings from security, he took one look back, waved bye to me, and walked around the corner to his new life, a life of unlimited potential and dreams fulfilled, with many new dreams to follow.

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