"[It was like] a conversation at the table, a little Sunday afternoon pasta," Del Negro said. "That's about it for me."On Thursday, amid discussion about the level of respect Bulls players have for their coach, Gordon reacted angrily to a fine from Del Negro, confronting him within earshot of media.
"I'm Italian, I like to argue. That's how I grew up," Del Negro said. "It doesn't bother me. So whatever helps to get this team going, whatever comments are made, everybody knows where to find me. ... Everybody says, 'What's going on?' Nothing's going on, we have to try to win. That's what I focus on."
Asked directly if he thought Gordon's reaction, which included an expletive, was disrespectful, Del Negro said it was not.
"No, because I argue with everybody," Del Negro said. "It's funny to me, it really is. ... I love that guys show passion, show some fight and some grit. That's why it's pro basketball. It's easy to play, it's hard to win. So when guys show passion and get aggravated, take it out on the other team."The Bulls, who have lost four in a row after Friday night's 114-94 loss to Toronto at the United Center, are struggling with injuries, inconsistent effort and teamwork. And after absorbing a blunt critique from general manager John Paxson this week, the last thing they needed was more conflict.
But team captain Kirk Hinrich said this is no different than any other season.
"Players have disagreements, coaches and players have disagreements," he said. "The main thing is we're able to put stuff that happens aside and be professional. That's what we're going to do."
Asked if players respect Del Negro, Hinrich responded, "Yes, I think so. Absolutely. That's what being a professional is. You respect your coaches, you respect that he has a job to do just like I do and everybody else."
Asked if he was behind Del Negro, Gordon responded, "I've always been about winning. ... Regardless of who the coach is going to be, who the coach is, my main thing is always to win. I'm sure that's Vinny's whole thing too."
With the Bulls still in the playoff hunt, Del Negro said he doesn't have the luxury to dwell on petty conflicts.
"The game is way bigger than an argument," he said. "Who cares about that stuff?"
Perhaps, it was suggested, Del Negro has found the button he has been looking to push all season?
"I don't know," he said. "There's no perfect scheme, there's no miracle pill, there's no perfect situation. ... I have to do a better job, the players have to do a better job, everyone has to do a better job. It's not one person, it's not one thing. It's a group of people who have to work and pull in the right direction.
"And when there are bumps in the road, the guys who stick with you and believe in your system and trust you and make a commitment, those are the guys I want to go to battle with."
And with that, as if to hammer home his point about his Italian heritage and sense of humor, Del Negro went looking for lunch.
"This food," he shouted to no one in particular, "better be good."