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Kim Hughes is still the Clippers coach. Sort of. It's complicated.

May 12, 2010, 5:17 PM EST

Khughes_BDavis.jpgBack on April 15, the Clippers fired interim coach Kim Hughes. It was not a surprise, the team did not play well under Hughes (8-25), although most of that was well beyond his control. There wasn’t much uninjured talent left on the roster, and what there was had started to mail in the season. Hughes tried, but he could not change that.

So he turned in his keys and computer and left the Clippers compound for good.

Or so he thought
. Ramona Shelburn at ESPNLosAngles has some details.

The following Tuesday — four days after he was “relieved of his duties as interim head coach,” he met with Clippers owner Donald Sterling who informed him that he still had a job with the Clippers until his contract is up on June 30.

Hughes has been reporting for work to the Clippers training facility in Playa Vista every day since. Like the Clippers other assistant coaches, he is reviewing game tape from this season, working out players and helping to evaluate potential free agents.

“Well, basically Mr. Sterling called me on Tuesday and told me there was a misunderstanding,” Hughes explained. “I came back in on Wednesday and have been here ever since…. We had a long talk, a very good talk, and he said he didn’t want me leaving the Clippers family and I told him I never wanted to leave.”

There are a couple things at work here. They are going to seem cynical — which sucks because Hughes the coach grew on me after attending a few games and hearing his post-game press conferences, and I was not alone — but it’s hard for me not to be in this case.

One, Donald Sterling hates — HATES! — to pay people for not working. Clippers coaches from Bill Fitch through recently-fired Mike Dunleavy have had to sue to get the remaining money on their guaranteed contracts. Sterling’s view is a black-and-white “you don’t work, you don’t get paid.”

Secondly, rumors around the team say the Clippers are hoping to either find a coach that will lure free agents or allow a top free agent to pick a coach if he comes to Los Angeles. This is a deliberate search. That’s why you hear the Clippers have interest in Larry Brown. But, free agency doesn’t start until July 1, and in the interim there is a draft and workouts and a host of prep work. The Clippers need someone to do that, and Hughes would be a good choice.

But the second a better candidate comes along, he will be out of this role. He may stay on with the franchise in some role, but he will not coach again. Unless the Clippers can’t find someone they like better. Then who knows? It’s hard to predict what the Clippers will do next.

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