Los Angeles Clippers Head Coach Vinny Del Negro Will Not Return
Per a written statement from the team, the search for a new head coach will begin immediately. Early rumored candidates include former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Byron Scott, former Phoenix Suns head coach Alvin Gentry, Indiana Pacers assistant Brian Shaw, and current Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins, whose contract expires at the end of the season.
Del Negro's tenure coincided with the arrival of Blake Griffin and Chris Paul to Los Angeles, where the two turned the perennial second-fiddle Clippers into "Lob City." After going 32-50 and missing the playoffs in his first season, the arrival of Paul, arguably the NBA's best point guard, helped Del Negro coach the Clippers to a 40-26 record in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season. By defeating the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round, the Clippers made it to the second round of the playoffs for just the second time since the franchise moved to Los Angeles.
Heading into 2012-13, the squad's additions of veterans Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes, combined with the existing nucleus of Paul, Griffin, young guard Eric Bledsoe, and veterans Caron Butler and Chauncey Billups, had the Clippers set as a dark horse squad in the competitive Western Conference. A 17-game winning streak, where the team did not lose a single game in the month of December, took away the dark horse label and elevated the team to full-on title contenders. But it was downhill from there. The squad went a paltry 24-20 after the streak was snapped before winning seven straight to end the regular season. After winning the first two games of their first round series against the Grizzlies, Memphis avenged the 2012 playoffs and swept the next four to eliminate the Clippers.
Throughout his tenure, Del Negro and his star point guard, Paul, were believed to have a testy relationship. Today's report that Paul wanted a different coach only shows that the owner Donald Sterling and the rest of the organization likely catered in order to keep their superstar, who is entering free agency, rather than stand by Del Negro.
Del Negro fell into a fortunate situation after Paul arrived following commissioner David Stern's vetoing Paul's trade to the Lakers. But rather than secure his job, "Lob City"'s arrival only heightened expectations. Expectations that a first-round playoff exit certainly didn't meet.