May 29, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT
Vinny Del Negro interviews well. He can wow a front office with tales of how he will improve and develop the team. The stories about how he charmed Donald Sterling and his wife over dinner, securing the Clippers job (when the rest of management wanted to go another direction) should tell you all you need to know.
That fact also explains why he may be the next coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
In what would be a body blow to a fan base that a year ago had such high hopes and now sees the team disintegrating, both Marc Stein of ESPN and Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports are reporting Del Negro is a leading candidate to be the next Minnesota coach. First we go to Stein at ESPN, who explains Del Negro may be moving past the expected favorite there Sam Mitchell.
Sources told ESPN.com on Thursday that Del Negro, who is also being considered for the Cleveland Cavaliers’ job, was spotted last week interviewing with Wolves president and part-owner Flip Saunders and is firmly in the mix for the post after the collapse of Minnesota’s talks with Memphis Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger.
But sources say Mitchell is by no means a shoo-in to replace the retiring Rick Adelman, with Del Negro said to have made a strong impression on the Wolves in their talks to date.
If your first thought is, “no way Kevin Love stays in Minnesota if Del Negro is the coach” you are half right — Kevin Love isn’t staying in Minnesota no matter who GM Flip Saunders hires as coach. Hiring Del Negro is apparently about looking ahead, according to Wojnarowski.
That’s the thing about Del Negro, his win totals are good enough that you can’t just dismiss him as someone with no idea what they are doing. What you can rip him for simplistic offenses, his vapid interviews, the insanely heavy reliance on pick-and-roll sets, and most importantly his treatment of players. Rose and Paul did better with the next coaches they had because the systems gave them more options and pushed then to give up the ball a little rather than make all the decisions. Del Negro tore down the talented DeAndre Jordan to the point he was useless late in games, where Doc Rivers was able to build him up and put Jordan in positions to get Defensive Player of the Year votes. That’s just one of many examples.
We shouldn’t ignore the fact Del Negro’s teams have done well in the regular season — he has a career winning percentage of .533, his teams have never been below .500, and the last season he coached he won 56 games. But his teams are very beatable in the playoffs because of his systems. He left the Bulls and Clippers and those team got demonstrably better (to be fair, he was replaced by two of the best in Tom Thibodeau and Doc Rivers).
We will see how this plays out, but I honestly never thought we’d see Del Negro in the league again. Especially on a young team trying to build up and develop talent — he talks a good game but the evidence points to a different conclusion.
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