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Clippers crossroads: Is Vinny Del Negro’s job in danger?

Mar 22, 2012, 10:23 AM EDT

Vinny Del Negro AP

The Clippers are regressing.

They have gone 7-11 since Chauncey Billups went down with his Achilles injury and they have looked a mess, including a blowout loss to the Thunder Wednesday. The Clippers have not played good defense all season but early on their offense was able to overwhelm teams — Chris Paul in the pick-and-roll is one of the league’s great weapons.

Paul and Blake Griffin continue to play well but the cast around them has been a mess — in their last 10 games Clippers not named CP3 or Griffin are shooting just 39.5 percent. The team’s rotations are a mess — Bobby Simmons was finishing games for a while, Eric Bledsoe has played well off the bench but got a DNP-CD the other day, Randy Foye went from starting to DNP-CD when Nick Young arrived. Roles seem in flux.

Coach Vinny Del Negro is searching for answers, but there are whispers he may be seen as part of the problem. Bill Simmons of ESPN and Grantland — not known as a guy who breaks news but has done so in the past including Chris Paul to the Clippers — tweeted this Wednesday:

Heard today that Vinny Del Negro is on super-thin, could-go-any-day ice. A blowout loss in OKC tonight won’t exactly help… 2 things going in VDN’s favor: 1) Sterling is too cheap to pay for 2 coaches, and 2) can’t hire an interim coach for a playoff contender.

This somewhat falls in line with what I was told earlier in the season — the Clippers were in evaluation mode with Del Negro, they weren’t sure if he was the right guy but they wanted to give him a chance to prove he could do it, through the end of the season. However, that was before this current run of losses and ugly play, which may have changed the dynamics.

To be fair, the job Del Negro was hired to do has changed. He was hired to coach a young team led by Blake Griffin that needed to learn how to be professionals and start to win at the NBA level. The arrival of Chris Paul turned this team into a potential contender — now the job is about deep playoff runs and getting players to mesh around the team’s stars. About putting in sets that maximize strengths and hide weaknesses. And getting everyone to play defense. There is no evidence Del Negro can do all that.

He is clearly frustrated and went off after the loss to the Thunder Wednesday, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Vinny Del Negro was mad — mad enough to be heard yelling at his Clippers in the locker room after the game, mad enough to admit to the media that he expressed his anger at his players….

“I’m big into how you approach games and how you compete,” Del Negro said. “We have to get the mentality of we have to play a certain way to win right now. And it has to be through our defense because we lack certain things. In order for us to score enough points to take pressure off of us, we have to be able to guard better.

“But our overall approach and everything to the game has to be better. That’s what is disappointing to me. We have to do a better job of being in the moment from the get-go and not waiting to get into the game.”

The question is, can Del Negro get this team to do those things? More and more it doesn’t look like he can.

  1. juanandonly24 - Mar 22, 2012 at 10:40 AM

    This guy is a crap coach. He held back the Bulls for quite a while and without him they became contenders the year after.

    • LilTmac2003 - Mar 22, 2012 at 11:21 AM

      If teams want to hire him, they should give him a position of “Youth Development” or something.

      I doubt he can lead a team to the Finals and win a ring, but he has done a decent job of transitioning college players to NBA players.

      • juanandonly24 - Mar 22, 2012 at 3:22 PM

        I’d be skeptical to even give him that. Blake Griffin’s game has shown no major improvement from last year (especially in his mid-range jumpshot and his awful free throw shooting.) I just think he’s atrocious. To watch his plays is to watch some of the worst half-court sets in the league, made only better by having so much damn talent on that roster. The worst part is, his offense sucks and that’s his GOOD part.

  2. comeonnowguys - Mar 22, 2012 at 10:45 AM

    As he is a terrible coach, yes, yes his job should be in danger.

    It was evident in the very first game with Thibs how bad the coaching had been under Vinny. You could do a drinking game to VDN’s bad timeouts.

    How he lucks into Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin, I’ll never know.

  3. zacksdad - Mar 22, 2012 at 12:33 PM

    They should hire Phil Jackson. He would love to stick it to mini-Buss after he tried to change the team from being any type of a Phil team. This team has much more chance than the Knicks in the future. He can stay in the LA area and maybe even only coach the home games. Sterling needs to step up and do the non-Sterling thing and for once try to win the Championship.

  4. tcclark - Mar 22, 2012 at 12:39 PM

    He definitely should. He’s not awful like others have suggested, but he isn’t the right man for the job. Dantoni is available and Chris paul would be a good point guard for his system. Nate McMillan is available as well (although Sterling probably wouldn’t hire him. A sort of dark horse guy to think about it Larry Brown. He’s coached the Clippers before and he’d be the perfect guy to make this team more disciplined. It’s a group of veterans and he has the point guard he requires.

  5. adnan604 - Mar 22, 2012 at 12:39 PM

    This article is something I been waiting months for, “Fire Vinny” has constituted of over half of my posts on this website..

    and screw you Vinny telling the team they have to “guard” better, that’s so simplified it must be a joke, what are you coaching a little league team, this is the pros bruh!

    Lets see the facts here

    Fact #1 Right after you were fired from the Bulls, Thibbedau made them the league’s best defensive team with basically the exact same roster

    Fact #2 And once again in the Clips you have a team FULL of young athletic players, probably the most athletic team in the league overall, and yet YOU CAN’T DO ANYTHING WITH IT

    you remind me of a teenage virgin who talks all big about his first time, and then when you get with a hottie you have no idea what to do

  6. 16x8equal49ers - Mar 22, 2012 at 2:37 PM

    Maybe he is a start’em up coach who is good w/ young inexperienced players but doesn’t coach talented veterans well. Like a college coach to a highschool coach, it’s a level up thing. He did well with the Bulls & now look at them they play at the next (contender) level w/ a championship coach. Come to the Wizards

  7. sunsation3413 - Mar 22, 2012 at 2:48 PM

    If the Clippers want to be contenders, they need a better leader. Vinny just doesnt have the experience to get it done. Get rid of him sooner rather than later and get on with it. So many great pieces in place for this team.

  8. chrisppers - Mar 22, 2012 at 5:19 PM

    I think Nate may be the best for the job out of the realistic available coaches, but they could also just make Chauncey the coach, he def couldn’t be worse.

    The problem with VDN’s offense is that it is way too predictable at this point.

  9. abchome - Mar 22, 2012 at 7:38 PM

    VDN doesn’t seem like to have clue what’s happening. He could only relate effort, which is important but clearly not everything.

  10. chicagofan - Mar 22, 2012 at 7:45 PM

    Vinny is a mediocre coach at best and kind of sucked in Chicago. The irony is that like D’Antoni , his coaching deficiencies were covered up on the court by Billups’ ability to be a coach on the floor and like D’Antoni he is going lose his job because he lost Chauncey.

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