How Much Leeway Should the LA Clippers Give Vinny Del Negro?
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I am of the school of thought that picking up the final year of Vinny Del Negro's contract was a mistake for the Los Angeles Clippers. That said, I'm fine with the Clippers letting Del Negro coach out the last year of his deal in its entirety.
In bringing back VDN for a third season, owner Donald Sterling took the cheap way out (as usual). Even after successful and reputable coaches like Stan Van Gundy, Nate McMillan and Mike D'Antoni came onto the market, the Clips decided that they would stick with Del Negro, the man who "led" them to their most successful season in franchise history.
Truth is, the Clippers achieved all they did in spite of Del Negro's presence, not because of it.
What made the decision to retain VDN even more complex was that the Clippers brass let Del Negro in on personnel decisions, which led to a rash of short-term veteran signings.
For instance, all the backup big men—Lamar Odom, Ryan Hollins and Ronny Turiaf—are not signed beyond 2012-13. Ditto for Chauncey Billups and Matt Barnes. Grant Hill and Willie Green both have contracts that are not guaranteed after this season. Jamal Crawford's deal goes to non-guaranteed status after next year.
If you're scoring at home, all eight players that the Clippers signed or re-signed in the offseason are not guaranteed money after 2013-14. Seven of them aren't guaranteed anything after this season.
Which just happens to coincide with the expiration of Vinny Del Negro's contract. Go figure. A coach in need of a contract selling out for the short term by adding eight players with an average age just a hair under 33 years old.
There's a ton of turnover in the profession of NBA head coach. Coaches who haven't established themselves as elite bosses make decisions with the primary desire of hanging on to their job.
Personnel decisions need to be made with the bigger picture in mind. That's why you can't give head coaches the power belonging to general managers—the team's long-term health will be compromised for a short-term boost.
Without a doubt, the Clippers are fielding a strong team this season. They'll be exciting to watch and should be able to get back to the second round of the playoffs. But they're not legitimately in the title race. Which is why the most important outcome of the 2012-13 season for the Clips is to convince franchise centerpiece Chris Paul to re-sign with the team.
So with a championship this year nothing more than a pipe dream, as long as Vinny Del Negro doesn't do anything to jeopardize L.A.'s chances of hanging on to Paul, he should be able to coach the team until his contract runs out at the end of the season.
Then perhaps Sterling will finally do something positive for Clippers fans and pay the going rate for a championship-caliber head coach.
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