So it turns out that if you take the word of Donald Sterling, via T.J. Simers, Vinny Del Negro’s job is safe for the rest of the season.
This comes on the heels of a dismal 8-11 stretch for the Clippers that culminated in a winless three-game road trip — consisting of two blowouts and a jaw-dropping loss to the last-place Hornets. But a couple days later, after two sweet, merciful wins at home for the embattled coach, “everything is good,” said Sterling.
“Would I like more wins? I’d like more. I’d like the players to develop more; I’d like to play better. But then I have great expectations, and to a certain extent they’ve been realized. To some extent they haven’t, but I’m a patient guy.”
He said he’s looking forward to the Clippers advancing to the playoffs and more good things happening.
Aren’t we all?
After the loss in New Orleans, a report from Chris Broussard indicating locker room unease seemed to jive with a public perception that the coach might no longer be the best fit for a team that had transformed into a contender with the trade for Chris Paul. However with the win in their first game back home against a good Grizzlies team and now this public vote of confidence from the man making the decisions, the climate surrounding Del Negro’s tenure seems to have settled, at least for the time being.
With only 17 games left in he regular season, and the playoffs still a strong possibility by virtue of the cushion they built early and the schedule they’ll play late, it’s obvious that timing has likely played as large a role in any decision (or non-decision) as anything.
For his part, general manager Neil Olshey — also without a contract for next season, as he noted in Simers’ story — doesn’t appear to have many options, even if he did feel the desire to replace Del Negro before his contract expires.
“It would be crazy to say when you lose 12 out of 19 that the thought doesn’t come through your mind. You’d have to be oblivious,” he said. “But the good always outweighs the bad with Vinny. He works his butt off, the players like him, and they’re competing. You have 20 games in 31 days and so people are misconstruing a little bit of fatigue with a lack of effort.”
“I see absolutely no reason why there would be a coaching change based on where the guys are now,” Olshey said. “I think everybody built us up into something because we got out to such a great start and the minute we didn’t live up to it for a short period of time everyone wanted to act like the Apocalypse was upon us.”
As most Clipper fans know, their Apocolypse will be upon them if Chris Paul decides to sign elsewhere as an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2013. Until it gets to that point, all they — and Olshey — can do is hope that the travails of the last few months find their way out of the collective minds of this team and its star. Because barring something unforseen, the man in charge of making that happen will continue to be Vinny Del Negro.