1. Why do you think he was fired?
Jared: Have you been watching the Clippers play since he became the coach?
Andrew: IS THIS A SERIOUS QUESTION?! IT’S BECAUSE [redacted by HP's secret lawyer ninjas]
…ahem. Well, Vinny Del Negro wasn’t a very good coach. It seemed as if the free agent leader of the Clippers, Chris Paul, was more interested in listening to a talking fire hydrant diagram plays than his coach. And VDN lasted this long because he had the backing of ownership, but that’s certainly a fleeting commodity with this particular owner.
(Are these guys going to watch me while I write the rest of this? They are? Got it.)
Kyle: In an effort to keep Chris Paul. It’s that simple. This Clippers team has many replaceable parts, but an elite point guard who can get the best out of his teammates is hard to find. Players win championships, and while I believe Del Negro is a solid coach, the Clippers couldn’t risk losing their top player. They can win without Del Negro but not without CP3 and it really is that simple.
Jack: Watch game 6 against the Grizzlies.
Derek: For instances like the example I’m about to give. I remember a late-season game against the Thunder where the Clippers were down 4 with about a minute to play and Lamar Odom, Ronnie Turiaf and Matt Barnes all got to miss shots on the most crucial possession of the game. Barnes isn’t so much the one I have a problem with as much as drawing up plays for the other two when you have Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to work with. The original play itself wasn’t even a broken play or anything– there was just no direction, which cannot happen with a top-10 team in the league. And good Lord, how hard can your job be when you have Chris Paul running the offense.
2. Are you surprised he was fired?
Jared: Have you been watching the Clippers play since he became the coach?
Andrew: Pft. …ha. Haha. Hahahahahahaha.
Kyle: I think he is better than a lot of coaches that are employed in the league, but I’m not surprised he was canned. The whole “is Chris Paul OK with him” thing played a role, but so did an uninspiring playoff run. This team would have made the playoffs without a head coach, so the first round exit (albeit to a team that is simply better in my opinion) was not viewed as a move in the right direction. If he had an excuse (i.e. star player injury) or coached in a small market (i.e. Memphis or Golden State), he might have gotten another crack at it in 2014, but he doesn’t so he won’t.
Jack: It’s surprising it took this long. Barring a wholly surprising championship run, Del Negro lost this job in March.
Derek: No, but I am surprised that it didn’t happen sooner.
3. Who’s the best replacement available?
Jared: Stan. Just because he said he’s not on the market doesn’t mean he’s not the best replacement available.
Andrew: If neither Van Gundy wants the job, and Phil Jackson is a pipe dream, it’s probably one of the league’s most sought after assistant coaches, such as Mike Budenholzer or Brian Shaw. I could easily see the Clippers going with a well regarded retread, however — someone like Alvin Gentry or Nate McMillan.
Kyle: I can’t imagine that I’m the only one who wants to see Phil Jackson coach this team, but he doesn’t seem like he wants to be back on the sidelines. I like Jeff Van Gundy or PJ Carlesimo for this job out of the remaining candidates. Van Gundy has, in theory, gained perspective from the six years off as coaching while staying involved in the game, a nice combination for a passionate coach. Carlesimo was thrown into a tough situation in Brooklyn, and no matter who coaches there is going to have problems making those contracts seem like a good idea. Either way, Los Angeles is going to look for a coach that will allow Chris Paul to be an assistant coach of sorts and a coach that is willing to make a move to get a scoring front court player that can help the Clippers win NOW.
Jack: Stan Van Gundy, but he insists he’s taking another year off from coaching. If that holds true, Golden State’s Mike Malone – thought of as the strategic brain behind Mark Jackson’s successful sermons – is a realistic and responsible option.
Derek: I like Mike Malone as well for what the Clippers are trying to do, but I think Andrew’s right and we’re going to see them fall back on a retread like Byron Scott or Alvin Gentry type.
4. Will the Clippers be better/worse/same next year with a new head coach?
Jared: If Chris Paul is back, the same or better, depending on who they hire. If he’s not back, worse.
Andrew: If CP3 is back and they stay healthy, they’ll certainly be no worse.
Kyle: Better. Like I said, this team makes the playoffs with any of us on the sidelines, making a first round exit the worst case sceneraio. The Clippers peaked too early this season and I think the team learns from that and wins a playoff serious in 2014. This, of course, is assuming that CP3 in still the leader of Lob City. Keeping Matt Barnes is also a very good idea … see? I’m already making good coaching moves. Consider my hat thrown in the ring for this position!
Jack: As long as Chris Paul re-signs, they’ll likely be better.
Derek: Depends on the coach, doesn’t it? This idea might play to Donald Sterling’s stingier side, but they could probably do just as well appointing Chris Paul player-coach. Okay, so that was an exaggeration, but they’re likely no worse-to-better with a new coach as long as they don’t screw it up.
5. Seriously, what do you think of VDN as a coach in this league?
Jared: He’s good at developing young talent (see: Rose, Derrick and Griffin, Blake), but if you want to be a serious contender, he’s probably (definitely) not your guy.
Andrew: He seems to connect well with the young talent, which certainly has value in a league that places such value on a young star on a rookie contract. His strategic and tactical approaches, however left the Clippers wanting for offensive execution and defensive consistency.
Kyle: He is an NBA level coach, but like anybody, he needs to be in the right situation. Who would have thought that in a three year span, a coach that increased the Clippers win total by 75% would be fired? As a former player, I see Del Negro as a good fit for an experienced team that has defined roles or an athletic team that has raw ability. The addition of Chris Paul obviously made the Clippers much better, and I think Del Negro is more of a “improve a team by 5 wins and get them over the hump” kind of guy than a “start from scratch and build a contender” coach. Call me crazy, but maybe he finds himself in Brooklyn in a similar situation (win now or get fired)?
Jack: He’s accomplished nothing but take talented teams no farther than most expected. What’s there to think? Wins and losses matter most, and if they didn’t Del Negro’s reputation would be even worse. How much credit does any coach deserve for the development of talents like Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin? And in the case of Del Negro, next to none whatsoever.
Derek: As much as we’ve bagged on Vinny the last, well, always, he has proven to be a coach that you can advance with if you have enough talent. Although, I think that says more about the roster than VDN.
And Chris Paul. Have I told you how much I love Chris Paul?
6. With Byron Scott, Vinny Del Negro, Mike Dunlap, PJ Carlesimo, Lawrence Frank, and Jim Boylan fired, who’s next on the chopping block?
Jared: You missed Doug Collins.
Andrew: Lindsey Hunter is still technically the interim head coach of the Phoenix Suns. This feels like cheating.
Kyle: Is Lindsey Hunter still employed in Phoenix? He isn’t going to stay there much longer. Maybe the Suns ping pong ball lands them a lower pick than expected and they blame Hunter and fire him tonight. They’ve got a bunch of picks (six first rounders spread out of over the next three drafts) and will likely bring in a new coach and allow him to build the team how he wants.
Jack: Other than adhering to the wish of basketball’s blogosphere by allowing Michael Beasley to compile more shot attempts than points this season, Lindsey Hunter’s done nothing in Phoenix to have his interim tag lifted. He’s next on the chopping block.
Derek: Well, Dwight Howard is complaining to the Lakers about D’Antoni. Not like he has a history of costing coaches their jobs or anything, just ask Mike Brown and Stan Van Gundy. OH WAIT.