From Kevin Arnovitz’s piece at TrueHoop:
When the Chicago Bulls hired Vinny Del Negro in June 2008, he was regarded as an outside-the-box hire. Here was a young, well-liked member of the basketball fraternity coming off a two-year stint in the Phoenix Suns’ front office. The Bulls brass admired Del Negro’s charisma and felt he was the right leader to put in the bunker withe Bulls’ combination of young players and established veterans. Two years later, the Bulls fired Del Negro after consecutive 41-41 seasons. But only a couple of months after his departure from Chicago, the Clippers tapped Del Negro to lead its core of young talent along with Baron Davis and Chris Kaman.
Evaluating Del Negro’s legacy in Chicago is an inordinately difficult task. Del Negro’s defenders point to two playoff appearances in two years and the maturation of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson. Despite being undermined by management in Chicago and losing Ben Gordon, he had the Bulls on track. Naysayers saw an inexperienced and unsophisticated tactician who struggled to build a coherent offense.
Whatever your appraisal of Del Negro, he comes to the Clippers job not as a potential wunderkind, but as a guy with something to prove. We sat down with Del Negro following the Clippers’ first summer league game on Monday night.
You’d be getting paid this season by Chicago irrespective of whether you took the Clippers job. Figure there will be another five or six openings over the course of the next 12 months, some of which will be pretty attractive. Why take this gig?
There’s a comfort factor for me.
What’s comfortable about it?
They have a lot of young talent and some good flexibility. It’s Los Angeles. It’s Staples Center. They have a great practice facility. I just felt comfortable with [Clippers general manager] Neil [Olshey] and [Clippers president] Andy [Roeser]. My meetings with [Clippers owner] Mr. Sterling went well. I’m very competitive and I enjoy the challenge of it. I love basketball and have been doing it my whole life. I thought this was a good fit for me. I didn’t have to do it, but it just felt right. I’m not going to sit around and wait for opportunities. I want to continue to grow as a coach and as a teacher
Do you define your time in Chicago a success or failure?
I view it as a big success for me personally. I had the opportunity to coach one of the most successful franchises in the game and I was able to help that team develop its young players, make two playoffs when no one expected that. I don’t care what anybody says — they didn’t expect that. I’m proud of my assistant coaches and the work they put in. I’m proud of my development. When I see Derrick Rose or Joakim Noah or Taj Gibson or Luol Deng — the guys who really improved in a lot of ways. That organization is in a much better position now after the two years I was there than it was when I get there.
Did you deserve to be let go?
That’s not for me to say. Those decisions are out of my control. My body of work speaks for itself. You’re always trying to improve as a coach. Not every decision you make is going to be perfect. But I’m very comfortable with what went on there in terms of the basketball side. I’ll leave it at that.
What did you do defensively in your second year to log that big improvement?
I think we focused more on it and I taught it better. Everyone got on the same page quicker. We had a core of players who returned after a year together and the team was built differently. They dynamics of the team in year two were different. We structured it a little bit differently and a little bit better overall. The players got more comfortable and they also grew as players.
Is Al-Farouq Aminu a 3 or a 4?
He’s a 3. He’s young and he’s got to get stronger and develop. That’s the coach’s responsibility, to continually put him in an area where he can get better. He’ll put in the work.
I know he’s only been in the league for five minutes, but are his instincts 3-ish enough to succeed on the perimeter right now?
For one, I don’t think he has the size and the strength for the 4. He has ball skills. He shoots it better than you think. He’s got some things to work on there. He’s young. He’s just starting off.
In this day and age, do we overstate the importance of position?
Probably a little bit. You have guys who are 6-foot-10 and 7-feet playing behind the line and not playing in the post anymore. The post-up game is different. The rules are different. The game continues to evolve and that dictates a lot of the things you do on the court. Talent wins in this league. We all know that.
To see what Del Negro thinks about Baron, advanced stats, and plenty more, read the rest of the Q&A session here .