Did Vinny Del Negro Deserve To Be Fired? – Omavi Darden

Wizards v/s Clippers 03/12/11
Wizards v/s Clippers 03/12/11 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This season Del Negro led this electrifying Clippers team to a franchise high 56 wins. The Clippers won their first ever division title and while doing so ended up with the 4th seed heading into the Playoffs.

This Los Angeles team was obviously better than its counter part (The Los Angeles Lakers ) for the year. Many people believed the Clippers would make some noise in the postseason.

They were scheduled to play Memphis, a team they had beaten in an exhausting 7 game series the previous postseason. A lot of NBA viewers gave the Clippers a slight edge in this match up.

Let’s point out the fact that Los Angeles had the best player and point guard heading into the series. Chris Paul was that guy, and along with the fact that the Clippers had such a good bench was also a reason for the slight edge. Heading into the playoffs Vinny was constantly put on the hot seat. His player rotations, coaching schemes, and late game deficiencies were always questionable.

Del Negro at times, seemed to put players on the court who didn’t seem to jell on the offensive side of the ball. His starting rotations were scrutinized.  Several times in the year a player coming of the bench would be outplaying the starter at that same position. Matt Barnes for much of the year outplayed Caron Butler, yet he still played in limited minutes behind the depreciating Butler. Also having Chauncey start at the shooting guard position didn’t make sense to many people as well.

Billups was injured most of this season, slower due to his age, and an inconsistent shooter for the most part. Willie Green was overall a better athlete, defender, and shot more consistently than the aging Billups. This Clippers team looked very stagnant on offense as well. Los Angeles abused the pick and roll to death, and became very predictable. Once teams started figuring out how to stop it, Chris was forced to go iso at the top of the key. Isolation basketball isn’t winning basketball, it takes a team to win, not one player.

Those were the Clippers two main ways of scoring, and a few down screens for shooters every now and then which didn’t work out to0 well in the long run. Del Negro seemed to want Paul to do everything on offense. He allowed Chris to dictate almost everything that was run on the court. As good as Chris Paul is, he isn’t a head coach in this league. He is a player, Del Negro is the coach.

Vinny should be the one in charge, he needs to put his players in positions to score. You can’t expect your star point guard to play his heart out on the court, and be a coach at the same time. It doesn’t work like that.  Everyone on the team has a task. The defense was just as bad.  Multiple teams lit up the Clippers from behind the arc during the season. It was as if they were running shooting drills on this disoriented Clippers squad. The Clips were constantly late on rotations, and close outs on shooters.

There was a report earlier in the season, that Vinny changed the defense up game by game. This tells me Del Negro doesn’t have a consistent reliable scheme at his disposal. If you are changing up the defense all the time, how do you expect players to be able to adjust in game situations. The players need to get a feel for the defense being run, and grow a custom to running it to perfection. The Clippers had  slow perimeter defenders, and frequently allowed penetration from opposing wing players. This defense appeared very discombobulated, too many times for a championship contender.

The Clippers late in games weren’t all that impressive either.  Vinny would allow Paul to handle the rock at the top of the key, let the shot clock wind down, and go one on five hoping to score. That doesnt even sound like offense in any way, shape, or form. He didn’t run many set plays late in games, this is probably the main reason the Clippers were so anticipatable in tight games. Del Negro seemed to only have faith in Paul on offense.  He hardly ever attempted to get any other players involved on offense in the fourth quarter of games.

Vinny had previously coached the Chicago Bulls from 2008-2010. He was very average at best, going a measly .500 both seasons with a record of 41-41 each year. He was shortly fired after his disappointing outing.  Once Del Negro left, the Bulls went an incredible 62 -20. Maybe Del Negro was the problem after all, who knows? So from there he became the Clippers coach in 2010. He wasn’t brought in to win a championship, but to be an average coach on a below average team.

Vinny was doing fine for the time being, until Chris Paul arrived in a blockbuster deal. Once Paul landed on the Clippers, expectations went up. Los Angeles was expected to compete for a title, year in and year out. Failure would not be tolerated. Once the losing started occurring, the spotlight was then shined on Del Negro.

He was an average coach, his weaknesses were being ridiculed. It wasn’t his fault and this wasn’t what he signed up for. In his first year over Paul, Del Negro’s team would go on to be swept in the second round of the playoffs by the San Antonio Spurs. Vinny was on the spot heading into this season. People wanted a championship, nothing less would be acceptable.

I believe Vinny was overwhelmed, the pressure really got to him. Del Negro was only an average coach at best to begin with, remember that. So the Clippers would go on to lose in 6, against the hungry for revenge Grizzlies team. Del Negro would later lose his job once this season ended. So do I think he deserved to be fired. I would say yes, only due to the circumstances he was put in. He wasn’t ready for all of this to begin with, and isn’t a championship caliber coach. So with all of that said, I believe the Clippers made the right decision to let him go

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