Culver City Observer -

By Mitch Chortkoff
Sports Editor 

Clippers' Coach Deserves A New Contract


April 25, 2013

Clippers’ Coach Deserves A New Contract

It’s customary for pro sports owners to evaluate their coaches at the end of each season.

The day after the National Football League season ends a half dozen or so head coaches are usually fired.

Some baseball managers get fired too and basketball coaches are in danger of becoming unemployed, particularly if their teams don’t make the playoffs.

The NBA regular season ended only a few days ago but already we know Doug Collins at Philadelphia and Mike Dunlap at Charlotte won’t be back.

Now I’ll mention Donald Sterling, who tops most owners in losing patience. Season after season, it seemed, Sterling changed his head coach as the Clippers went through many dreadful years.

Changing the coach, often bringing in a new system isn’t the way to establish continuity. Apparently Sterling didn’t realize that.

My mind wanders back to Gene Shue, more recently Mike Dunleavy and about 20 others in between.

Two years ago Sterling changed his ways. The Clippers spent well, improved their bench with intelligent use of their money and created a roster with intriguing potential.

At the start of this season I thought they’d be better than the Lakers. They were good and not only because of Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. They had a roster capable of succeeding over the 82-game distance if the coach could manage the talent properly.

Well, he has.

The Clippers had a 17-game winning streak this season, won their first Pacific Division championship and set a franchise record for victories in a season with 56.

The coach rested players at the proper time and veteran leader Chauncey Billups has been able to start the first two playoff games.

But Vinny Del Negro’s contract is up at the end of the season.

‘I believe in what we’ve done here,’ he said.

The Clippers not only made the playoffs last season but defeated the Memphis Grizzlies in a memorable Game Seven to win a playoff round.

Then the Clippers were swept by San Antonio in the second round and speculation began about Del Negro’s status as the coach.

There was a lot of talk that Del Negro was in trouble.

I’m here to say he has done a splendid job this season and regardless of what happens in the rest of these playoffs he deserves a new contract with a raise.

The Clippers have a 2-0 lead over the Grizzlies following their exciting 93-91 victory Monday night.

If they finish off the Grizzlies, then lose in four or five games to the Oklahoma Thunders I hope speculation doesn’t arise again about Del Negro’s status.

Sterling wants a championship, but he should realize that building on what’s already been achieved, not tearing it down, is the best way to proceed.

In the first two games against the Grizzlies Del Negro called upon his reserves often and they were the key to their wins.

The Clipper and Grizzly starting fives are about even but the Clippers have a better reserve corps.

I’ve seen young coaches shorten their rotation in the playoffs, reasoning that this is the most important time of the season so they go longer with their starters.

Del Negro didn’t fall into that trap. As I sat in the Staples Center press box I was proud of him for making good use of Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, Eric Bledsoe, Lamar Odom, Ryan Hollins and even 11th man Ronny Turiaf. He didn’t call upon Grant Hill or Willie Green but they’ve made contributions in other games.

At halftime of Monday’s game the Clipper reserves were outscoring the Grizzly reserves, 19-2.

Getting ahead of myself I’m thinking the Thunder will be too good for the Clippers in the next round.

If that’s so, don’t blame it on the coach. Embrace him. Keep building on a good thing.


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