Del Negro Playing It Cool While Seat Remains Hot In Clipperland

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DALLAS — Jerry Reinsdorf hired Vinny Del Negro to lead the Chicago Bulls despite not a single coaching gig on his resume. Five years later, the lame-duck coach of the Los Angeles Clippers still can’t escape the stigma of being a cheap hire for a bad team.

Only the Clippers aren’t a bad team any longer, not since Chris Paul arrived a season ago. Despite a mini-slump of late, 5-5 in their last 10, L.A. is 48-23 and closing in on franchise firsts of 50 wins and a division title.

Still, there’s little love for Del Negro. No Coach of the Year mentions as the season winds down to its final month. No contract extension forthcoming. Only one hot seat.

Worry about his future? Del Negro said it’s not something he does.

“No, my future is great. I’ve got a great future no matter what,” Del Negro said Tuesday before the Clippers lost in overtime at Dallas, 109-102. “I’ve been pretty fortunate, so I don’t really worry about that stuff so much. All those things take care of themselves. Where we finish, we’re going to be prepared, we’re going to be organized, we’ll play hard and at the end of the day, you got to try to win some basketball games and finish as high as you can and have a great playoff run. But a lot of playoff teams are saying that right now and it doesn’t always work out like that.

“But you have to put yourself in this position on a consistent basis year-in and year-out and learn and keep the core of your team together. And if  you do that, with stability, usually at the end of it you get it figured out as you move forward with a young team that’s trying to develop.”

The Clippers won 32 games in Del Negro’s first season. Over the last two seasons — the last being a lockout-shortened, 66-game schedule — they’ve won 88 games and advanced to the second round of the playoffs. Expectations have been boosted this season and there’s speculation that Del Negro, hired by Neil Olshey, now Portland’s general manager, won’t be back if L.A. makes a quick postseason exit.

“I enjoy the pressure. I love the competition,” Del Negro said. “Could things be a little bit better in certain areas? Of course. But, all those things get answered at the end of the year. Our focus is on tonight’s game and on this season and all those things get answered at the end one way or the other.”

The Clippers are locked in a three-way battle for the No. 3-5 seeds with Denver and Memphis. Tuesday’s loss at Dallas slipped L.A. into fourth place with a game tonight at New Orleans, followed by road tests at Houston on Friday and San Antonio on Sunday.

“I want the highest seed possible, but we just want to make sure we’re playing the right way into the playoffs,” Paul said. “We have the capability, regardless if we have homecourt [advantage] or not. You got to be able to win on the road so either way it doesn’t matter.”

Clippers players have applauded Del Negro’s ability to manage one of the deepest rosters in the league and keep harmony among players who might not get the minutes they feel they deserve. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who coached Del Negro for two seasons in San Antonio, has lauded Del Negro’s strategic incisiveness.

At some point doesn’t Del Negro deserve credit for the Clippers’ massive turnaround? Not that it matters now. The pressure is on and expectations heightened.

“Like I tell the guys, we should thrive on the pressure because you’re in a situation where these games matter where we’re in a playoff run instead of being out of the playoffs.” Del Negro said. “So take advantage of the situation and handle the pressure in terms of be excited about it. And everyone’s vying for certain things, but we can only control what we can, and that’s our preparation and the intensity we play with.”

15 Comments

  1. Willy says:

    So who is putting him on the hot seat Jeff?

    • BJ says:

      Vinny is not in the hot seat, thats just how the media starts unecessary confusion. its sad that the media and sports commentators are like this. Magic does it also. he starts blabbing about how some coach better start worrying about his job when the teams loses a few games. and its really sad because Magic has only said that concerning the black coaches, LOL. a little selfhate that flowing thru his veins if you ask me. but thats just my personal opinion.

  2. creamonehunglow says:

    Da bulls

  3. allaroundballer says:

    If you compare their roster to Spurs, you’ll sure it’s about the coach

    Jerry Sloan would be perfect fit

  4. EDDIERICH says:

    did labron approve this story?

  5. Natasha says:

    I have 2 words.. PHIL JACKSON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. GO JAZZ says:

    I feel kind of bad for Del Negro, he tries so hard to be recognized as a relevant coach in the league but is put on the hot seat after almost every loss. Watching the Clipper games and their body language you can tell that they aren’t listening to anything Vinny has to say and have no respect for their coach whatsoever. Chris Paul is the coach of this team and everyone listens to him. Basically if the Clippers don’t go to the finals you can say goodbye to Vinny.

    • BJ says:

      I dont know if I agree with that one. the played 1/2 a season last year because of the lock out and one full year and have been plagued with injuries here and there along the way. I think this team needs to stay together with Vinny as their coach for another year, let them continue to mesh and see what happens next year.

  7. championkb24 says:

    i believe clippers could have a big chance to win championship if they hire an expert pick and roll coach like jerry sloan to do the job.

  8. Baron says:

    number one, after I saw the tape today on Clipper’s final shot, you could see clearly the flop by Dirk. The shot was good and there was no push or shove by Blake, but it was unfortunate loss for Clips. Saying that, regardless who Clips face in the first round, it would be a tough series for them, and seems to me they have lost their composure a bit. So regardless who is coaching them they should take over the games and play hard for each other and their fans and hope for better season with a real coach! next year. Good luck Vinnie on your next endeavor.

    • BJ says:

      yeap, Dirk completely flopped. bad call by the refs and they lost in OT, get ready for the next game.

  9. amitpal says:

    This guy uses the most basic style of basketball. Pick and roll. Theres no real system for the clippers. Its just give the ball to paul ad let him do everything. Well like yesterday what do u do when chris gets double teamed. Chris paul played a great game yesterday but the team lost cuz no one elses could step ar closing time.

  10. […] Gregg Popovich, Jeff Caplan, Jerry Reinsdorf, Los Angeles Clippers, Neil Olshey, Vinny Del Negro / No Comments […]

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