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Clippers to retain Vinny Del Negro as coach next season

May 29, 2012, 5:11 PM EDT

San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Four Getty Images

Vinny Del Negro — who oversaw arguably the best Clippers season ever but left lingering doubts about whether he could take them any farther — will get a chance to prove he can.

The Clippers announced Tuesday that they have picked up the option year on Del Negro’s contract.

Chris Paul signed off on this, or at least he and his agency (CAA) didn’t stand in the way of it. No way it happens otherwise. Paul is entering the last year of his contract as well and the Clippers have to keep CP3 far more than they need to keep any coach. Also, Blake Griffin‘s first extension to his rookie contract will be offered up this summer so he had some leverage. If they had asked for someone like Stan Van Gundy or Jeff Van Gundy or even Mike Malone of Golden State they could have pressured the Clippers to make a move. It was reported that midseason GM Neil Olshey was ready to make a move (he has denied this, as he must).

I think Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN said it best (via twitter):

LAC buys itself 12 months. VDN a favorite of ownership. Paul/Griffin camps don’t feel strongly enough to be labeled coach-killers.

It’s a very Clippers owner Donald Sterling move to go with the guy he likes (and isn’t paying as much as he would have to an elite coach). That said Del Negro is far from safe. Next summer the Clippers need to get Paul re-signed and if he feels the team can’t win with Del Negro the coach will be gone. Without hesitation.

Del Negro led the Clippers to a 40-26 record and they knocked off the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs. For a Clippers team used to planning lottery parties this time of year, it was a huge step forward.

But the Clippers run a simplistic offense that relies heavily on the pick-and-roll and Paul. When the Spurs in the second round cut that off and forced the Clippers to their counters and other sets, the offense stalled out. While management likely chalks that up to learning to win as a team, a lot of fans and others pointed at Del Negro’s offense.

And the Clippers were an inconsistent defensive team this year.

The job Del Negro was hired to do — help a young team grow on the path to winning — changed the day Paul arrived and the Clippers had the makeup of a contender on the rise. The Clippers are now where the Thunder were a year or two ago. The question now is if Del Negro is really enough of a coach to lift the Clippers up to the next level next season.

In Chicago Del Negro seemed to hit a barrier that Tom Thibodeau (and some good roster additions) broke through. Del Negro gets a second chance to prove he is that guy, but if he’s not the Clippers have set themselves back. And that one year setback could cost them very dearly.

  1. cakemixa - May 29, 2012 at 5:14 PM

    Fans of 14 other western conference teams breathe a sigh of relief and chuckle.

  2. thestudiokida - May 29, 2012 at 5:36 PM


  3. stoudemelo - May 29, 2012 at 5:39 PM

    Clippers upper management at it again.

    12 months from now the headline will read “Clippers replace Del Negro with hall of famer Isiah Thomas”


  4. xliontamer - May 29, 2012 at 6:41 PM

    Sorry if it upsets you because you hate VDN or the Clippers, but this is actually a very prudent move.

    If you keep him, you get the first full year of consistency, the first chance to build on momentum and see his, and possibly the rosters, limitations. At the end of the year, if it isn’t working out, you don’t retain him, hire a big name and CP3 and Griffin are still going to buy in.

    You fire him now, you get to start over with new systems, a few new players. If the team gets no further in the playoffs, what do you do? Fire the new coach? How would you keep your superstar and convince him it’s a brand new Clippers if he’s had two coaches in two years?

    VDN did at least a good job this year, if not better. I don’t know if it’s enough – but neither does anyone else. For the Clippers, making no change is actually a change – and a reasonable one this time around. Keeping the Big O (the man who actually built this team) is a much bigger issue for those paying attention…

    • stoudemelo - May 29, 2012 at 8:35 PM

      Xlion- if you are chasing a ring you do it with a guy who is capable of winning a one. Del Negro isn’t in the same breath as any coach.

      To name a few recent coaches to win it. Del Negro isn’t even close, before getting handed both the bulls and clippers jobs he had zero coaching experience.

      Nate McMillen, Mo Cheecks, Jerry Sloan and Brain Shaw are more likely to win a ring for you

      • xliontamer - May 29, 2012 at 10:05 PM

        Stoudemelo – I don’t disagree with you – but the Clippers are not likely to win a championship with Nate McMillen, Mo Cheeks, Jerry Sloan, Brain Shaw or any V-G brother next year either, so why create the potential for something bad when you can hire any number of those guys (or that level guy) next year if this one doesn’t work out?

        If Pop or Jackson called the Clippers about the job, then fair enough, but I haven’t heard that rumor…

  5. jerdogthompson - May 30, 2012 at 12:04 AM

    I’m going to agree whole heartedly with xliontamer. This was the first time no change was an actual change. Look I’m not heading up the VDN fan club mind you. However, if you think for a mere second that CP3 & BG were not consulted then you truly know absolutely nada. Fact of the matter is VDN despite his inefficiencies showed some true grit and leadership late in the year. Look, all the naysayers & doomsday merchants will certainly have their fun with this story. Only problem is we have a team coming back next year with it’s nucleus intact and the ability to attract some FA talent along the way. Think there are teams that would trade places with us? I can think of about 27 of them that would. WORD! Keep hating it only makes winning all that much more fun.

  6. BigBeachBall - May 30, 2012 at 3:15 AM

    VDN better step up, this may be his last shot as a headcoach in the NBA.

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