Vinny Del Negro says experience is a big factor in his improvement. (Tannen Maury / EPA )
CHICAGO — It all began right here, when Vinny Del Negro took his first NBA head-coaching job with the Bulls. It lasted just two years, Del Negro getting fired after taking Chicago to playoff appearances in 2009 and 2010.
Del Negro now is in his third season with the Clippers, his second opportunity to be a head coach.
In his fifth season leading an NBA team, Del Negro said he has grown as a coach from "just the experience of doing it."
"I think you get better every year," Del Negro said before the Clippers played the Bulls on Tuesday night.
"You're always looking to get better individually and make your team better."
The Clippers picked up Del Negro's contract option over the summer after he led the team
to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs last season.
He doesn't have a deal beyond this season, but it's not something Del Negro said he worries about.
"I have to continually grow as a coach," Del Negro said. "I'm a young coach in the league. ... I've picked the brain of a lot of veteran coaches, but you also have to have your own philosophy and style. ... It's about putting your team in an area of strength and trying to win games."
When the Clippers followed up a six-game win streak with a four-game losing streak, there were reports that Del Negro might be on the hot seat again.
That wasn't the case, and his players supported him.
"Vinny has been great," guard Jamal Crawford said. "I'm having more fun with him than I've had in my whole NBA career. I think it's the trust that he gives me and the trust that he gives our team. I think he understands the pulse of the team.
"He knows how to talk to guys. He knows how to get messages across and guys really respect him. I think that's a direct connect to why we've had some early season success."
Though they still haven't got a nickname for the Clippers' bench, fans keep sending them via social network.
Crawford talked about the latest he got on Twitter from a fan.
"Lob Deep," said Crawford, which is a takeoff on Lob City.
Del Negro said Grant Hill (bone bruise in right knee) started running Monday, but there still is no timetable for the forward's return.
Hill is on the four-game trip with the Clippers.
"He felt pretty good" Tuesday, Del Negro said. "He'll run every other day and see how he feels. So that's kind of where it's at."
Chauncey Billups (tendinitis in his left foot) also is on the trip, but didn't play against the Bulls and is not expected to play Wednesday night against the Charlotte Bobcats.