Mar 24, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro during the game against the Memphis Grizzlies during the second quarter at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-US PRESSWIRE
Some Sunday morning pondering. There were three significant news items that showed up on the web last night. The first was a piece by Bill Plaschke in the LA Times. The second was in Marc Stein's Weekend Dime, and the third was a brief, tantalizing tweet by the inimitable Bill Simmons. (All of these items can also be found in the fanshots below, they were initially reported by Citizens agolden and C's Up. The original link to the Stein quote came through "IamaGm.com", which is one of those
amalgamators aggregators that, at least in this case, didn't actually bother to link to the original location of the Stein piece. Annoying.)
Let's look at the LA Times piece first. I'm never sure where Plaschke's coming from. Sometimes he sensationalizes a mild story or seems to be looking for a headline. Sometimes he digs down and finds the truth hidden in the chaff. I think this is one of the latter times (and I recommend reading the whole artcle). In it Plaschke analyzes Vinny Del Negro's precarious future as the Clippers coach, and he does something no one else seems to have bothered with... he goes to Vinny himself and he has a conversation with the guy.
The interview is brief, there's nothing startling in it, but Plaschke indicates that Del Negro is very well aware that he is really not much more than an interim coach himself at this point, that the Clipper brass has come to the conclusion that Del Negro is not the coach the team ultimately needs. He's a lame duck.
"The coaching move still could be made at any time in the next couple of weeks if Clippers officials feel that one of their assistants, probably Robert Pack, could find a way to prod this talented and exciting group to more tangible success. If the Clippers make the playoffs, even a run to the conference finals might not save Del Negro, considering his contract will expire and the summer market will be filled with experienced winners like Jerry Sloan, Nate McMillan and, yes, even Phil Jackson."
It's interesting that Plaschke throws Robert Pack's name out as a possible interim replacement for Del Negro should the Clippers decide to replace him this season, because that was the focus of Marc Stein's Weekend Dime item. The entire Clipper-centric fragment goes like this:
"One of the factors that has appears to have saved Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro from joining Portland's Nate McMillan and New York's Mike D'Antoni on an unusually long list of March firings so far is the fact that the Clips have no assistant who slides easily into an interim role.
Veteran dismay with the Xs and Os , according to one source close to the situation, is not restricted to Del Negro, suggesting that promoting Marc Iavaroni to interim coach would not be received well by the Clips' vets. (Dean Demopolous and Robert Park after Del Negro's other assistants.
Sources say that once Chauncey Billups was lost with a season-ending Achilles' injury, Del Negro lost the vital locker-room presence most capable of keeping the group together. It's been bumpy, to put it mildly, ever since."
IamaGM distilled this down to: "Clippers players not fans of assistant coach Marc Iavaroni either". But, whatever. It doesn't say anything good about the current Clipper coaching staff when there isn't a man among them you might be willing to turn into an interim coach. Shoot, at this point, it's already common knowledge that your head coach is really just an interim coach anyway. The only conclusion a Clipper fan can logically draw from this is that the Clippers need a better coaching staff.
Finally, let's look at the Simmons tweet. There isn't much:
"Fascinating Memp-Clips game right now. Sterling knows VDN lost team but overruled firing him yesterday. Wanted to see 1 more game in person."
Okay, you either believe Simmons has a good source or you don't. He's been fairly reliable recently and when the CP3 trade finally went down, he had it first. Even so, is this a particularly revelatory news item? That the owner of a professional sports team wants to take one more look before he commits to firing a coach? I think, were I Donald Sterling (!) I'd want a look with my own eyes as well. Especially in light of the Plaschke and Stein items above. Especially if the only appropriate replacement is a coach (Pack) who's only been an NBA assistant for three years (including this one).
It is interesting to note that Pack coached for the Hornets in 2009 and joined the Clippers staff last year, so he has more background with Chris Paul than anyone else. One would think, if Chris Paul wanted Pack to be head coach, at this point, it would probably happen. But would it have happened already? I'm just connecting dots, that dot's a little fuzzier than the others.