On TrueHoop, Kevin Arnovitz reflects recent news of Vinny Del Negro’s departure.
He’s well-liked personally, and has uncommon charisma. He charmed Sterling at a dinner with the Clippers brass at the Montage Beverly Hills in late June of 2010. The mood at the table was festive, Del Negro a pleasure to be around and the spouses had a nice rapport. Del Negro exuded exactly what the Clippers felt like they needed to fumigate the place after the final tumultuous seasons of the Mike Dunleavey era — a happy warrior, both confident and communicative. Charm is infectious, but if it’s a person’s No. 1 personal attribute, it can also raise suspicions among management if it’s not accompanied by success.
When Paul arrived in Los Angeles, expectations soared far more quickly than either the Clippers or Del Negro anticipated. The bar was set at contender, and Del Negro would have to prove himself as not only a morale booster, but as a coach who could design a plan that delivered.
Del Negro never claimed to be a tactician. He maintained that everyone in the league ran the same basic stuff. He summed up his philosophy best during the winter of 2012 when the Clippers were playing well. “”I think it’s important for guys to go out there and play off instinct instead of, ‘Go here, go there,’ or whatever,” Del Negro said recently. “I like guys to play. I like guys to get a feel for what we’re doing and how we’re doing it and work off the instinct and play. I think guys enjoy the game that way a little bit better.”
Paul certainly appreciated his coach’s sentiment, as Del Negro happily ceded most of the play-calling. It was also nice to have Del Negro go to bat for Paul’s personnel causes — free agent signings, potential trades and the like. But having never reached a conference finals eight years into a Hall-of-Fame career, even Paul realizes he needs a little help in the final five minutes of a basketball game.