The Los Angeles Clippers improved tremendously in 2011-2012, posting the largest winning percentage increase from one season to the next in team history. This coming from a franchise that has not posted consecutive non-losing seasons since the 1992-93 season.
Head coach Vinny Del Negro was considered the scapegoat for last season's playoff loss to the San Antonio Spurs after being out-coached by Gregg Popovich. Skeptics claim that Del Negro will keep the Clippers from making the necessary adjustments to succeed in the postseason.
Throughout his time in Los Angeles, Del Negro owns a 94-82 record, heading a complete transformation of the franchise most closely associated with failure. Only in his fifth season as an NBA head coach, Del Negro has spoken out about his need for improvement.
Del Negro has changed the culture of a franchise that hides under the poor leadership of owner Donald Sterling, while also standing second fiddle to the Los Angeles Lakers.
With budding superstar Blake Griffin, who is signed to a long-term contract, Del Negro has the centerpiece to a decade of success in Los Angeles. Alongside point guard Chris Paul, the fearsome duo began turning the Clippers into the greatest show in Los Angeles.
Magic Johnson said on Christmas Day that the Clippers remind him of the showtime Lakers. This team is exciting, athletic yet driven to play hard on every night.
During their 14-game winning streak, the Clippers have won their games by an average of 12 points. These blowouts have allowed the bench to log large minutes, keeping the starters rested for the part of the season that truly matters most.
When ex-GM Neil Olshey departed for Portland, he left Del Negro in charge of player personal and a successful offseason followed. With the additions of Lamar Odom, Jamal Crawford, Ronnie Turiaf, Grant Hill and Matt Barnes among others, the Clippers have one of the deepest teams in the league.
Del Negro is an experienced front-office man with over six years of non-coaching experience in the NBA, including an assistant GM position in 2003. His greatest strength has been his ability to handle adversity by keeping composed on the Clippers sideline.
Los Angeles Clippers fans want to win playoff games and put banners on the rafters to compete with the in-town rival Lakers. With the personnel to win, the pressure now turns to the coaching staff to make the correct adjustments to lead the Clippers to a ring.
The best example of Vinny Del Negro's coaching genius was late last season. After losing six of nine in a rough March stretch, Clippers players and ownership showed their support for their head coach by going on a 13-2 stretch, including six straight victories to start the streak.
Biggest difference in the club: Del Negro began trusting his bench and the Clippers played much improved defense. Defense is all about effort and communication, something coach Del Negro has preached as the Clippers head coach.
LA's bench made huge plays against Memphis in Game 7 of the first round of the playoffs, leading them to a second-round matchup for the first time since 2006.
This season, the Clippers lost early games to Cleveland and Brooklyn, something coach Del Negro took personally. After reaming his team for taking nights off, the Clippers have responded by winning 14-straight games in convincing fashion.
With everything falling into place, the Los Angeles Clippers have much to be thankful for this holiday season. As a franchise better known for 15-win seasons instead of winning streaks near that length, the Los Angeles Clippers have their unsung leader in coach Vinny Del Negro.