The Clippers, inexplicably, have settled on Vinny Del Negro
By Kelly Dwyer
It absolutely boggles the mind. Second chances don't come much clearer than this.
Not for Vinny Del Negro, if we're to get specific. Though this is his second chance at running a pro basketball team. After exactly zero days spent on the bench as an assistant coach in this or any other league.
No, what we're talking about is the second chance for the Los Angeles Clippers to get it right. To see that the exact same scenario unfolded in Chicago two years ago with coach Del Negro and candidate (sigh) Dwane Casey, and go in the opposite direction after carefully (I mean, how long would it take to carefully consider?) considering how things ended up in Chicago.
To bring you up to speed, if you haven't heard: Vinny Del Negro will be the next coach of the Los Angeles Clippers. He'll become the next coach after the Clippers whittled down the search to a race between him and longtime assistant Dwane Casey. The move, coming just a few months after the Chicago Bulls dumped VDN, is a bit shocking in and of itself. It's even more shocking when you consider that two years ago the Bulls whittled the same type of search down to Del Negro and Casey. Same two guys. Unbelievable.
Casey came off as too cool for the Bulls, and they went with the slick stylings of Del Negro. And the team, despite two playoff appearances, suffered as a result.
I'm not keen to pile on Del Negro much. He is a nice guy who provides a nice presentation to potential employers. There's a reason he has the Clippers — who don't have an actual general manager, by the way — looking past the giant mistake Chicago made two years ago (under, you know, the exact same circumstances). Del Negro can run a great interview without actually getting into specifics. All he has to do is mention attributes — heart, passion, enthusiasm; spare me — and the bosses are all his.
Meanwhile, the guy with actual X's and O's game, Casey, is left behind again. It's ridiculous.
I don't want to hear the twaddle that tells you that Del Negro did well to even get to a .500 record with Chicago. I watched these games, and even given massive leeway for the team's continual roster turnover and youngish makeup, this was a team that underachieved.
Derrick Rose(notes), I'm sorry, did not develop under Vinny Del Negro, as some have reported. There is nothing in Rose's jump from Memphis to his first season to his second that cannot be explained by the expected growth of a sparkling talent like Derrick. Not the bogus All-Star berth, not the nonsense perpetuated by Ric Bucher. The guy still doesn't play a lick of defense, his jump shot is about the same as it was during his rookie year, and he still isn't a natural or confident passer.
The same goes for Joakim Noah(notes). Del Negro, as was demanded by a front office sick of the ways Scott Skiles and Jim Boylan treated the 7-footer, was merely given more playing time. That's it.
The defense? Fell from one of the league's best with just about the same roster makeup under Skiles and Boylan, to a mediocre crew.
The offense? Despite some weeks working as one of the best of the league in late 2008-09, consistently ranked as one of the worst in this league. Every shot seemed contested, and every play out of a timeout (take it from someone who watched) looked a bigger mess than any post-dead-ball setup in this league. It was hopeless.
The Bulls got to .500 because of raw talent, and little else, under Del Negro. I like the guy, but they won in spite of him. Or, survived in spite of him. And the Clippers — those idiotic Los Angeles Clippers — just decided to ignore the same circumstances that failed for the Chicago Bulls. They just decided to assume that it actually worked for Chicago (why in the hell do they think Vinny is available in the first place?), and continue apace.
Because he talks pretty.
Dwane Casey wins. He wins pretty, he wins ugly, and he still doesn't have a head job.
And the Clippers deserve to be where they are. They deserve worse, actually. Far worse.