PLAYA VISTA, Calif. – Vinny Del Negro’s coaching future with the Clippers is unresolved, and it will probably stay that way for a while.
Del Negro and his coaching staff are making their case this week in exit interviews with management, but the organizational depression over the team’s first-round playoff loss to the Memphis Grizzlies is still too fresh.
In the end, the Clippers’ six-game defeat is likely what will determine whether Del Negro receives a new contract or is let go. His original three-year deal ended this season.
“I’m proud of what we’ve done here,” he said Monday. “Obviously, no one is happy about not getting by the first round and having a longer playoff run, but sometimes those things happen. This isn’t easy stuff. Everyone talks about it like it is, but it doesn’t always work like that.”
So far, Del Negro has yet to discuss a new contract with team president Andy Roeser, vice-president of basketball operations Gary Sacks or team owner Donald Sterling, who will have final say. Del Negro can point to a franchise-record 56 wins and the team’s first Pacific Division title, but failing to advance beyond the opening round was an unacceptable finish to a remarkable season.
Sacks said there’s no timetable for a decision regarding Del Negro and his staff but he said doing something sooner rather than later is the plan. That works for Del Negro, too.
Whether he’s the right man going forward is essentially what they must figure out. The Clippers understand Del Negro’s coaching style, but his ability to take them to the next level is the question they’re trying to answer.
“I don’t think there’s anything we necessarily need to know that we don’t already know,” Sacks said, “but I think it’s just getting together and seeing what vision we have together and where we are as an organization.”
Del Negro’s return could well be in the hands of guard Chris Paul, who becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1 and whom Sacks said was the team’s “No. 1 priority.” If Paul makes his return contingent on a new coach, Del Negro is likely gone.
“We do the (player) exit interviews for a reason,” Sacks said. “We want feedback from our players to hear what they’re going to say, but whatever we do, we’re going to do as an organization. Of course you’re going to listen to your star players, and you’re going to listen to all your employees and all your players when you make these kinds of decisions, but I don’t think that’s unusual for a team to do that.”
If nothing else, Del Negro understands that winning in the regular season is one thing, but winning in the playoffs is something else. The Clippers had the talent to win from October to April, but they couldn’t make adjustments when they faced the Grizzlies, who were stronger and grittier in their best-of-seven series.
So for all their franchise firsts, the Clippers still failed.
“The expectation is higher and the results need to be better,” Del Negro said. “As difficult as that is right now, I’m actually proud of that because that’s the direction I want the team to go. And that’s the mindset I want the organization to have, and that’s the mindset I want the players to have, that’s it’s not good enough. We can do better. That hasn’t always been the case.”