Clippers owner Donald Sterling says he is prepared to give maximum contracts… (Kirby Lee / US Presswire )
Clippers owner Donald Sterling said before the team's Monday night game against the New Orleans Hornets that he hasn't given any thought to making a coaching change.
And he sees no reason why Vinny Del Negro won't be the team's coach for the remainder of the season.
"I like him," said Sterling. "I usually follow the advice of my people, and I think they care for him, like him and want him to succeed. And I think he will."
An Internet report that suggested Del Negro "has lost the team" and players no longer "want to play hard for him" sparked speculation the coach was another loss or two from being fired.
"I don't know where all these stories are coming from; nobody talked to me," Sterling said. "Everything is good.
"Would I like more wins? I'd like more. I'd like the players to develop more; I'd like to play better. But then I have great expectations, and to a certain extent they've been realized. To some extent they haven't, but I'm a patient guy."
He said he's looking forward to the Clippers advancing to the playoffs and more good things happening.
But as important as it is for the Clippers to win now, the organization must prove to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin there is no good reason to leave when their contracts expire.
Paul will be a free agent after next season and the Clippers will have chance to offer Griffin a five-year contract beginning July 1 for a maximum of $94 million.
"Chris Paul will be with me for a lifetime," Sterling said. "And Blake will too. I'm not going to ever let these guys go. They are max players, and so you're going to pay that and keep them."
The Internet report, which ignited the firestorm swirling around Del Negro, was attributed to an unnamed source.
Did Clippers General Manager Neil Olshey put any stock into the suggestion Del Negro has lost the locker room?
"No," he said. "I don't know where that would have come from because I'm sure it didn't come out of our locker room."
But did Olshey think about making a change?
"It would be crazy to say when you lose 12 out of 19 that the thought doesn't come through your mind. You'd have to be oblivious," he said. "But the good always outweighs the bad with Vinny. He works his butt off, the players like him, and they're competing. You have 20 games in 31 days and so people are misconstruing a little bit of fatigue with a lack of effort."
He said it has been a difficult season for the coaches because of the number of new players, the condensed schedule and lack of practice time.
"I see absolutely no reason why there would be a coaching change based on where the guys are now," Olshey said. "I think everybody built us up into something because we got out to such a great start and the minute we didn't live up to it for a short period of time everyone wanted to act like the Apocalypse was upon us."
Del Negro is in the final year of his contract, leading to some speculation that a coach can't carry the same weight with players if they can't be sure he will return.
"Scotty Brooks has the best record in the Western Conference with Oklahoma City and he doesn't have a contract beyond June 30," Olshey said. "Rick Carlisle won an NBA championship last year with Dallas and he doesn't have a contract beyond June 30. By the way, I haven't had a contract since Oct. 1.
"If anyone thinks a bunch of kids in the locker room know the state of their head coach's contract status, no way."
As much as anything, the Clippers are now trying to deal with something new to the organization: success.
"Listen," Olshey said. "If anyone had told us when we made the trade for Chris Paul that we'd be fourth in the conference and two games behind the Lakers, we'd say, yeah. Because of that the pressure's on and now we'll see how we do.''