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Where Now for Clippers?

The Los Angeles Clippers' front office confirmed Tuesday that head coach Vinny Del Negro would not be returning to the sidelines next season.

The Los Angeles Clippers’ front office confirmed Tuesday that head coach Vinny Del Negro would not be returning to the sidelines next season.

The Los Angeles Clippers will part ways with head coach Vinny Del Negro it was announced Tuesday, paving the way for more uncertainty with Los Angeles’ other team.

After celebrating a first division championship and the best regular season in franchise history, the Clippers stumbled against the Memphis Grizzlies in the opening round of the Western Conference playoffs, losing four straight games after opening with a pair of wins.

While most of us agree that losing to the Grizzlies – who are proving to be a legitimate contender in the Western Conference – could hardly be considered an embarrassment, it appears that Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling and general manager Gary Stacks might believe otherwise.

Despite leading the Clippers to a franchise best 56-26 record, Del Negro will not have his contract renewed when it expires on June 30.

In three years with the side, Del Negro compiled a 128-102 (.557) regular season record, making him just one of only two Clipper coaches – with Larry Brown (64-53) – to have a winning record with the team.  Del Negro can easily stake a claim as the franchise’s best coach.

A poll by the Los Angeles Times suggests that most believe the Clippers made a mistake in releasing Del Negro.

52.8 percent of those quizzed responded ‘No’ when asked ‘Did the Clippers make the right move by parting ways with Vinny Del Negro?’

25.1 percent said it was the right move, while 22.1 percent said it would depend on who comes in as Del Negro’s replacement.

A similar result was found during an ESPN SportsNation poll, with 56 percent suggesting the move was ill-advised.

Del Negro becomes the eighth coach to be released since the close of the regular season, joining Byron Scott (CLE), Lawrence Frank (DET), Doug Collins (PHI), Mike Dunlap (CHA), Jim Boylan (MIL), and P.J. Carlesimo (BKN).

Re-signing Chris Paul is priority No. 1 for the Clippers this summer.

Re-signing Chris Paul is priority No. 1 for the Clippers’ front office this summer.

The Clippers now begin the search for a new head coach to lead them into the 2013-14 campaign, a season in which they hope Chris Paul – a free agent as of July 1 – will be leading them into battle.

Fans are understandably anxious.

The above list of fired coaches, excluding Doug Collins who has agreed to take on a front office role in Philadelphia, could prove to be potential list of candidates for the Clippers. Likewise Avery Johnson (BKN), Scott Skiles (MIL), and Alvin Gentry (PHX), each of which was released during the regular season, and remains on the hunt for work.

Then, of course, there’s the lineup of usual suspects: Phil Jackson, Jerry Sloan, Jeff and Stan Van Gundy.

Phil Jackson reiterated to ESPN’s Mike & Mike in the Morning that he had no interest in taking on coaching duties. Alvin Gentry coached the Clippers between 2000 and 2003 – going 89-133 (.401) with no playoff appearances – so is unlikely to be considered. Avery Johnson probably comes with a price tag too high for an owner known for his stinginess when it comes to coaches, as do the Van Gundy brothers, although it’s hard to imagine Jeff giving up the headset to work with the Clippers.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Clippers’ front office is favoring Byron Scott. Nate McMillian – most recently of the Portland Trailblazers – is another potential candidate, as are Mike Budenholzer and Mike Malone, assistants with the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors respectively. Brian Shaw, currently with the Indiana Pacers, has also been mentioned.

Appointing Shaw would add another intriguing wrinkle to the story. Kobe Bryant, along with Jackson, has long voiced his approval of Shaw, and had hoped the former Laker would have replaced Mike Brown earlier this season. With some suggesting Bryant might be amnestied this summer, could we be about to see the Clippers secure the former MVP they’ve coveted for so many years?

Sterling and Co. will likely make a quick appointment before looking to secure Paul’s signature. Of course, the selection the team makes could prove vital to Paul’s decision in the first place.

As for Del Negro himself; with a 210-184 (.533) career coaching record in the regular season with the Bulls and Clippers, and four playoff appearances in five attempts, he shouldn’t remain out of work for too long. There’s certainly one owner in North Carolina that should be keeping an eye of the winning-est coach in Clippers history.

** * * *

The Western Conference finals resume Saturday with the Spurs traveling to Memphis to take on the Grizzlies in Game 3.

San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies odds for 3/25/13 are available now.

With the series switching to the River City, the Grizzlies have been installed as the favorite. The spread opened at 4 1/2.

Memphis is 19-1 in its last 20 games at FedEx Forum, and unbeaten there in the postseason. The Grizzlies are also 5-0-0 ATS at home this postseason, something bettors should give serious consideration to.

San Antonio is no slouch though. The Spurs are 4-1 both straight up and against the spread on the road this postseason.

It has been reported that Tony Parker will undergo a precautionary MRI on a bruised left calf on Thursday, although he is expected to play in Saturday’s game.


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