A case to fire Vinny Del Negro is stronger than to keep him. But don’t be surprised if the Los Angeles Clippers brass, sympathetic with Del Negro for not having a healthy Blake Griffin in the last two games of the playoffs, decides to give him another year.
Firing Del Negro sends a strong message to the players that their postseason performance, regardless of the circumstances, is not acceptable. The Clippers did have a divisional title to celebrate, but in the NBA, there’s only one championship worth toasting.
A team can’t win an NBA title until it’s in the title game. And to get to the title game, a team has to be in the conference finals. Those are steps the Clippers have to achieve before thinking of serious title contention. Their regular season was fine, but only good enough for a No. 4 seed in the West. Teams need to go after a top three seed to have a better chance at playoff success.
The Clippers haven’t gotten that far yet and if they’re serious about it, they need to make a coaching change before making a longer commitment to Del Negro.
A new skipper means a new emphasis. Making the playoffs isn’t acceptable by itself, but winning the entire postseason is what matters. That’s the message getting a new coach for the Clippers would mean. It happens all the time in the NBA. Teams that have had excellent regular seasons but struggle in the playoffs make a coaching chance for that reason. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. The Clippers, if they’re serious about winning an NBA title, need to make a change right now.