Best Potential Replacements for Vinny Del Negro to Keep Chris Paul with Clippers
Ahem, excuse me, I mean the Clippers as an organization have decided to move forward without Del Negro.
According to Adrian Wojnaorwski of Yahoo! Sports, the Clippers have parted ways with their head coach. His contract had expired and he was up for a new deal, which Los Angeles will not be giving him.
Del Negro spent the last three seasons with the Clippers, compiling a combined record of 128-102 and leading them to two consecutive playoff berths, a feat that hadn't been accomplished since Los Angeles qualified for back-to-back postseason runs in 1992 and 1993.
With Paul set to enter unrestricted free agency this July, the search for Del Negro's replacement must begin immediately.
By "Del Negro's replacement," I of course mean "Chris Paul's hand-picked preference."
One of the reasons Del Negro was reportedly ousted was because Paul wasn't a fan, so the Clips must sift through all the available options and find one that appeases their prized point man.
Among the biggest reasons the Clippers let Vinny Del Negro go today, sources say: Chris Paul was not a fan.— Ken Berger (@KBergCBS) May 21, 2013
Where will that quest take Lob City?
Let's take a look.
*All stats in this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference unless otherwise attributed.
Honorable Mention: Phil Jackson
Head Coaching Record: 1,640-1,155
Years Experience: 20
It's common courtesy to throw Phil Jackson's name into any coaching search. And it's common practice to (usually) toss it right back out.
There are so many reasons why the Zen Master won't be guiding the Clippers toward a championship. Among them is the fact that he's known to want what Pat Riley has—a position of power within a front office.
Mostly, though, it would just be "too creepy."
To repeat, sources have indicated it'd be "too creepy" for Clips to hire Phil Jackson, even tho there is a lot of respect for him— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) May 21, 2013
Jackson led the fellow Staples Center tenant Los Angeles Lakers to five championships. No matter how rocky the relationship is between him and the Lakers, it seems inconceivable that he would accept a position to coach the Clippers.
And if that's not enough, there's always the reality of knowing that Donald Sterling is far too cheap to pay him.
5. Byron Scott
Head Coaching Record: 416-521
Years Experience: 13
Byron Scott didn't get the fairest of shakes with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but he'd pose an interesting fit with the Clippers. And per Ramona Shelburna of ESPNLosAngeles.com, he's expected to receive consideration for the now open position.
The former NBA Coach of the Year took over a crippled Cavaliers franchise that is now on the precipice of respectability. His rotations are often questionable, but Chris Paul wouldn't hesitate to call him out should it become an issue.
Speaking of Paul, Scott did great work with Kyrie Irving in Cleveland. And he coached Jason Kidd toward two Eastern Conference championships with the then New Jersey Nets. Oh, and he did some nice work with Paul in New Orleans to. He knows and appreciates his point guards.
It's not entirely clear how the two left things in New Orleans, but you have to imagine past failures with the Hornets aren't going to be an issue, otherwise Scott wouldn't have emerged as a candidate. The two have also reportedly remained in touch over these last few years.
Scott's price tag could become an issue with the penny-pinching Donald Sterling, though not as big a one. He's a veteran coach who won't likely be swayed by the lowest of low-ball offers, but won't command as much money as some of the other bigger names.
Then again, money could be no object at all (Sterling likes the sound of that).
The chance to coach Paul and what is easily the most talented team he would have the opportunity to control since 2003 may prove too good to pass up.
4. Lionel Hollins
Head Coaching Record: 214-201
Years Experience: 7
Just look at what Lionel Hollins has been able to do for the Memphis Grizzlies. Then look at the Clippers, and how much they could benefit from a self-assured coach like Hollins who is no stranger to coaching through adversity (see Rudy Gay trade).
Per Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com, Hollins is one of the many candidates Los Angeles will consider to fill its vacant coaching position.
The problem? Memphis is determined to keep him this offseason and the Brooklyn Nets are known to be interested as well.
Hollins could find himself at the center of a bidding war this summer, and I'm not so sure Donald Sterling is prepared to open his fanny pack for the yearly salary he is destined to command. Mikhail Prokhorov knows no such bounds in Brooklyn, though.
That said, Sterling appears to have a soft spot for Hollins. He went on a not-so-secret mission to take a gander at him in Memphis' Game 1 loss to the San Antonio Spurs. Maybe he's willing to break open his piggy bank after all.
Even then, however, the situation is complicated. Hollins isn't known for directing fast-paced offenses. While an already strong defense stands to improve under his direction in Los Angeles, the Clippers aren't home to the type of bigs who can carry an offense the way Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol do. He would have to make some significant systematic adjustments.
Would Paul approve? After watching Hollins' Grizzlies traipse their way past the Clippers in Round 1 of the playoffs, I bet he would. For the right price, I believe Sterling would approve too. But Memphis wouldn't, which is why Hollins isn't higher on this list.
After the season the Grizzlies have had (and are still having), I don't see Hollins going anywhere.
Still, until Hollins signs on the dotted line in Memphis, the Clippers can dream.
3. Mike Budenholzer
Head Coaching Record: N/A
Years Experience: N/A
If there was a job that could convince Mike Budenholzer to leave Gregg Popovich's side, it could be this one.
According to Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times, Budenholzer is among the list of Vinny Del Negro's potential replacements. And it's not difficult to understand why.
Budenholzer wouldn't be your average rookie head coach. He's helped lead the San Antonio Spurs to four championships and is currently still aiding in their quest for a fifth.
Combine his championship pedigree with the work he's done on both ends of the floor with Tony Parker and the rest of San Antonio's two-way studs, and Chris Paul may already be panting with approval. I know I am.
As it always does with Donald Sterling, so much of Los Angeles' coaching search will come down to dollar signs. Priority No. 1 is appeasing Paul, but unless the point guard offers any guarantees that he'll return to play for Coach X (and he won't), annual salary will be an issue.
Though Budenholzer would likely command more than your average first-timer, it won't be anywhere near that of a veteran head coach.
Given what he has been able to accomplish with the Spurs, he is one of the few who has the potential to render both Paul and Sterling smitten.
2. Mike Malone
Head Coaching Record: N/A
Years Experience: N/A
Mike Malone is awesome. And according to Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times, the Clippers think so too.
The Golden State Warriors assistant coach was voted the best assistant in the NBA by the league's general managers just a year ago and has emerged as Mark Jackson's current right-hand man in Oakland.
He has also been instrumental in Stephen Curry's development (do I have your attention, Chris Paul) and is one of the better two-way, sideline-meandering minds the league has to offer.
Paul should know (some of) this already, though. Malone was an assistant under Monty Williams when the point guard played for the Hornets. For those wondering if that would bring back any bad memories, you can rest easy knowing Malone is a favorite of Paul's.
As Clips search for new coach, Paul is known to be a proponent of Warriors assistant Michael Malone. They were together in New Orleans.— Ken Berger (@KBergCBS) May 21, 2013
Malone is currently being courted by a number of other teams, but none of them have the talent (i.e. Paul) the Clippers have to offer.
As a first-time head coach, Malone is likely to fit Donald Sterling's budget as well. He won't hold the same clout as, say, a Phil Jackson or Stan Van Gundy (spoiler), but he's not a passive presence either.
You give him a stellar point guard (got it) and some players who can shoot the three-ball (need to get it), and you'll have a recipe for success.
1. Stan Van Gundy
Head Coaching Record: 371-208
Years Experience: 8
This needs to happen.
Stan Van Gundy was recently quoted as saying that he wouldn't be coaching in the NBA next season for family reasons. I took that to mean the right job just hadn't opened up.
Well, now it has.
So, Stan Van Gundy, still want to take the entire next year off?— Kurt Helin (@basketballtalk) May 21, 2013
Van Gundy's presence on the sidelines would do wonders for the Clippers. He knows how to handle superstar egos—Dwight Howard would even attest that—and he specializes in off-ball offensive movements. Chris Paul would be thrilled.
Howard himself came a long way under Van Gundy, among others. With his guidance, DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin's low-post sets stand to look like less of a train wreck. In Jordan's case, Van Gundy could even help him feign competency on the offensive end in general.
Paul (and Griffin) would obviously have to approve Van Gundy's arrival, and Stan himself would have to suddenly change his tune. But if a deal can be struck (open that wallet of yours Mr. Sterling), Van Gundy's hands-on approach is exactly what this Clippers team needs.
You could then color Dwight Howard jealous.