The Clippers decided not to retain Coach Vinny Del Negro despite leading… (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles…)
Why mess with success when you have known only defeat previously?
The Clippers sold out 94 straight games with Vinny Del Negro as coach, won the franchise's first Pacific Division title and then decided to not bring back the winningest coach in Los Angeles Clippers history.
I called the Clippers, asked for PR, got transferred to a machine, and when I called back and asked for a live person, I got transferred to another machine. Four more times.
Maybe they fired the PR guys as well as the coach. They are the Clippers, after all.
I finally asked to speak to Andy Roeser, the guy who informed Del Negro he was history.
I got only dead air, so I knew it was his office.
That left Donald Sterling to clear up everything, and some of you think this job is easy.
Say what you want about Sterling; it's all true. But whenever I put a question to him he tries to provide an answer.
I told him I didn't understand the rationale behind Del Negro's dismissal.
"The coach is a wonderful man, and I'm sad about the whole thing," Sterling said.
"Was this done," I asked, "just to hang on to Chris Paul?"
"I always want to be honest and not say anything that is not true," Sterling said. "So I'd rather not say anything.
"But you know, the coach did a really good job. I think he did. And I liked working with him. There are just factors that make life very complicated and very challenging."
So the Clippers are trying to hang on to Paul.
But don't they already have him locked up? The team has done everything to make him comfortable, even hire his favorite PR guy from New Orleans.
Do the Clippers really think he would accept almost $28 million less to sign elsewhere?
"Here you have two inexperienced people running your basketball operation in [GM] Gary Sacks and [son-in-law] Eric Miller," I told Sterling. "And Andy Roeser doesn't have the greatest track record when it comes to basketball personnel decisions.
"So I wonder, is this decision being made because the players are now calling the shots? Am I off base?"
"No, you're not off base," Sterling said. "This is a players' league, and, unfortunately, if you want to win you have to make the players happy. Don't you think that's true?"
I answered: "No. Money makes players happy."
"It's not entirely true. Money is not the only thing that makes them happy," Sterling said. "They want to win, and they want the best opportunity to win. Do they know what the best opportunity to win is? I frankly don't know.
"But if you have special players, and special players think that they know the best opportunity to win, you have to support them."
That would suggest the team's two special players, Blake Griffin and Paul, privately were not supportive of Del Negro.
Easy to blame the coach.
But maybe Griffin should have found fault with his own disappearance in the playoffs, which included a serious ankle injury while fooling around in practice before Game 5.
And maybe Paul has assumed too much power, everyone conceding the fact he's "the man," but now he's really going to prove it.
Let's see if the Clippers hire a coach like Byron Scott or Mike Malone, who have previous ties to Paul.
"I really wanted to keep coaching the Clippers," Del Negro said, and how many people can say that?
He took the high road upon hearing the Clippers had no interest in his returning. But he did veer off slightly when told maybe it was his own players who led to his demise.
"Like any coach, you get your complaints and complainers in players, but I think we had a very good working relationship," he said. "But I think if you let players run your organization, you are behind from the start."
Sterling said he has no idea whom he might hire next.
ESPN.com "guessed" Sterling was in San Antonio to take a look at Memphis Coach Lionel Hollins, who will be available after the playoffs. ESPN.com also reported a few days ago that Del Negro could remain the Clippers' coach.
At least it had every angle covered.
"No, no, no," said Sterling, who was visiting a friend who wished to attend the playoff game in San Antonio. "My visit had nothing to do with [the Memphis coach]. Nonsense."
But maybe Sterling has it right and the inmates really should run the asylum — asylum an apt description for the Clippers before Paul's arrival.
Is it really a bad thing to have the best player pick the coach?
What do you think, Dwight Howard?