Who’s next? What influence did CP3 and Blake Griffin have?
From the club:
“We would like to thank Vinny for everything he did during his three years with the organization,” Clippers Vice President of Basketball Operations Gary Sacks said. “Vinny helped this team win a Pacific Division title and we greatly appreciate all that he and his staff helped us accomplish. This was a difficult decision, but we feel this is the best decision for our franchise moving forward.”
Del Negro compiled a 128-102 (.557) record with the Clippers in three seasons, guiding them to the Playoffs in 2012 and 2013. The Clippers finished the 2012-13 season with a franchise-high 56 wins and the fourth seed in the Western Conference Playoffs before falling 4-2 to the Memphis Grizzlies in the First Round. In five seasons as a head coach with the Chicago Bulls and Clippers, Del Negro owns a 210-184 (.533) career record.
Whatever decisions the Clippers make this week regarding the status of Coach Vinny Del Negro, input of players could turn out to be a key to the process.
Del Negro, who guided the Clippers to the best record in franchise history only to be gutted by a first-round playoff loss, has reached the end of his three-year contract and the club will decide if he returns.
Whether or not the potential signing of free agent Chris Paul is linked directly to Del Negro’s return, the opinion of the All-Star guard and forward Blake Griffin will fit somewhere in the equation.
“We do the exit interviews for a reason,” club vice president of basketball operations Gary Sacks said Monday. “We want to have 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, you’re going to listen to all of your employees and all of your players when you make these kinds of decisions, but I don’t think that’s unusual for teams.”
Del Negro, who took the job following the Clippers’ 29-53 season of 2009-10, understands that part of the deal.
“Yeah, I think all that plays a part but those are questions for them,” he said. “I enjoy working with them, they’re great guys, they’re incredibly talented and they’re the nucleus of the team that you want to keep intact and move forward with. I’ve enjoyed working with them and I’ve seen their development.”
Sacks said there is not timetable for making a decision on Del Negro’s future with the Clippers, who won 56 games this season before bowing out in six games in the playoff series against Memphis.
The Clippers had their fair share of critics over the number of technical fouls they racked up this season and Game 6 in Memphis added to the total, with Chris Paul ejected for picking up his second “T” in the fourth quarter.
Matt Barnes, one of the culprits, had a few things to say on the subject. However, he caught himself when referring to official Joe Crawford, one of the crew working Friday night’s game.
“Whew, man, Joey Crawford. Boy, I’ll tell you, Joey Crawford,” Barnes said, drawing laughter before pausing. “He had a good game last night.
“We really had a problem with the refs all year and it came back and bit us in the playoffs. If I come back next year I think that’ll be a real teaching poiint for the coaching staff and the players, that we have to police ourselves and we can’t get into with the refs. It’s like trying to beat the police.”
Barnes was complimented for the restraint he showed at certain points.
“I tried,” he said. “I saw a couple highlights last night where I thought ‘Whoa, I didn’t get thrown out for that.’ I think for the most part the refs understood it was a lot of emotion, a hostile environment, and they did what they had to do to control the game.”
The physical series was a bit of a culmination of frustration for the Clippers, whose primary big men — forward Blake Griffin and center DeAndre Jordan — took the brunt of the pounding all season.
“They’ll beat you up in the playoffs and you’ve got to be ready for that,” Barnes said. “I think our guys did a great job this year because I really felt we did get beat up a lot. Coming from the Lakers where you get a lot of calls, and coming to this team where you don’t get a lot of calls, you really see people get beat up, sometimes you lose your cool. I’m really happy to say I didn’t get a tech the last two months of the season.”
Coach Vinny Del Negro will meet with the media on Monday morning, and of course the conjecture is already underway regarding his return to the Clippers. This is the last year of his contract, and the knee-jerk talk has been that the Clippers needed to make a deep playoff run in order for him to get another chance with this club.
Part the behind-the-scenes talk is also that Chris Paul might want to have a voice in who the coach will be if he is to re-sign with the Clippers.
But Saturday, Del Negro had plenty of support from his players.
“You look at the body of work from three years ago when he was hired until now, we’ve made incredible strides,” Blake Griffin said. “But ultimately this is something that the front office has to handle, this being the last year of his contract and all that.”
“Coach did an outstanding job with all the pieces,” Paul said. “I remember last year it’s a blur now, even the phone calls before I even got traded here, trying to put all the pieces here. Our coaching staff did an outstanding job with what they were dealt. We win together, we lose together.”
Matt Barnes, the last piece of the puzzle to sign just before training camp, enjoyed one of the best years of his career.
“I think Coach did a great job. People don’t understand it’s hard to manage people like us,” Barnes said, drawing laughs. “Young men and people that have money and egos and family in their ear and friends in their ears. For Coach to put all of that on one page and get everyone to go for the same goal, really with a new team, and do it so fast, you’ve got to take your hat off to him.
“There were things said about this or that but anytime you play or coach in L.A., you’re going to be in a fish bowl. I think Vinny did a great job of managing the egos and managing this team and taking this team to a new level.”
Bleary-eyed and still dazed by a season-ending defeat, the Clippers showed up at their practice facility Saturday morning, only hours after being eliminated in six games from the first round of the playoffs by the Memphis Grizzlies.
“It’s one of those things where it’s almost like we waited too late to hit,” guard Chris Paul said. “We came out aggressive last night and we were the guys not letting them knock us around and it’s almost too late, because we were getting a whistle almost every time down.”
And as for the future, Paul becomes a free agent on July 1. He’ll be the main priority for a franchise that had unprecedented success in 2012-13, but he wasn’t ready to look that far ahead yet.
“All season long I said it was something I’d address after the season and I really didn’t think about it all during the season,” Paul said. “And the season is not even 24 hours from being over. And I really haven’t thought about it.
“For me, the craziest thing is the season is over. I still haven’t gotten that wrapped around my brain. When I woke this morning Little Chris got in my bed and the first thing he said was ‘Daddy, why did you lose again?’
“We’ll see. I don’t know how this whole thing is going to go or play out.”
Blake Griffin and his sprained ankle will be a game-time decision for Coach Vinny Del Negro.
“See how he warms up, see how he feels,” Del Negro said before the game.
Tip-off for Game 6 is 6:30 on Fox Sports Net and ESPN2.