Report: Clippers consider keeping Vinny Del Negro

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Vinny Del Negro always had one big advantage in keeping the Clippers head coaching job. And no, it wasn’t that the team won a club record 56 games this season.

It’s that owner Donald Sterling likes him. A lot.

That open secret is worth noting as the fate of Del Negro’s contract is in Sterling’s hands, and while most people around basketball expected the coach to be let go after the Clippers first round exit (because that is what they would do) the Clips may keep him around, reports Ramona Shelburne at ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Sources told ESPN.com that there is a level of interest within the organization to extend Del Negro’s contract despite the widespread assumption in league circles that the embattled coach would take the fall for the Clippers’ six-game exit to the Memphis Grizzlies in Round 1….

The longer Sterling has taken to consider the situation, sources say, the more Del Negro’s chances of scoring another short-term contract have been boosted. Sterling has preferred to give short-term contracts to Clippers coaches and front-office executives after he had to pay out the remainder of former coach and general manager Mike Dunleavy’s five-year, $22 million contract when he fired Dunleavy in 2010.

Two quick thoughts here:

First, what does Chris Paul think? The team’s top priority this summer is keeping the superstar point guard and re-signing him. Which is expected to happen. But he’s had leverage over player/personnel moves with the team lately and this is in that category. If he and Blake Griffin want a new coach, the Clippers get a new coach. Does CP3 think Del Negro can coach this team up to the next level.  (That bothers some people, but the fact is a great player is much harder to find than an average coach.)

Second, Shelburne’s story notes one other NBA team with a coaching vacancy has interest in Del Negro if he is let go. Really? I find that kind of stunning.