By David Aldridge, TNT analyst
Posted Jul 6 2010 11:28PM
The Los Angeles Clippers have decided to hire former Bulls head coach Vinny Del Negro as their next head coach, according to a league source with knowledge of the team's intentions. Del Negro beat out Mavericks assistant coach Dwane Casey; both men were interviewed Tuesday for a second time by Clippers officials.
Del Negro's success in getting the Bulls to the playoffs the last two years was a key factor in the Clippers' decision making, according to the source. Chicago made the postseason both years as the eighth seed in the east; in 2009, the Bulls and the top-seeded Celtics engaged in a memorable seven-game series won by Boston. This past postseason the Bulls fell to the top seed Cavaliers in five games, though most of the games were competitive.
Del Negro, who had had no previous coaching experience before being hired by the Bulls, was 82-82 in his two seasons in Chicago and seemed to constantly be in jeopardy of losing his job. Strong rumors that the Bulls wanted to fire him in December were only abated when the team went on an unexpected winning streak.
He was nonetheless fired after the playoffs amid reports of run-ins with team president John Paxson, including a physical confrontation between the two in March. The incident occurred after Del Negro had exceeded a doctor-recommended minutes limit for center Joakim Noah, who was recovering from a foot injury. After Noah played 27 minutes against Phoenix March 30, Paxson confronted Del Negro in the coach's office. Paxson ultimately apologized for the incident.
Del Negro was hired by Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf after Chicago couldn't agree to terms on a contract with Mike D'Antoni, who subsequently was hired by the Knicks. It's believed Del Negro has an "offset" with the Bulls which would require Chicago to pay the difference if the Clippers are paying Del Negro less than the $2 million remaining on the final year of his Bulls contract.
Casey, the former Timberwolves head coach, was a finalist for the Hawks' head coach job last month but lost out to Atlanta assistant Larry Drew.
The Clippers fired former head coach Mike Dunleavy in February and relieved him of his general manager duties as well in March. Dunleavy filed for arbitration in April, saying the team had stopped paying his remaining salary on the five-year, $22 million deal that had a year remaining. League sources say the team has also stopped paying some of its scouts that were hired by Dunleavy.
The Clippers job was nonetheless enticing, with a team loaded with talent, including forward Blake Griffin, All-Star center Chris Kaman, shooting guard Eric Gordon and point guard Baron Davis, and having cleared enough cap room to at least make a bid for one of this summer's top free agents The team selected Wake Forest forward Al-Farouq Aminu in the first round of last month's Draft.
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