Vinny Del Negro oversaw a lot of firsts in his time with the Los Angeles Clippers. The first Pacific Division title in franchise history. A 17 game winning streak, the longest in franchise history. The first ever Game 7 win on the road. He was unarguably the most successful coach in Clippers history. And he was the first coach in the history of the Clippers organization whose stock was higher when he left the team.
Remember, Vinny Del Negro was not fired. His relatively cheap 3 year contract expired, at the end of his most successful season. The Clippers are on their way up still, but the blue and red rocketship he was piloting could come crashing back down to Earth more easily than a meteoric ascent to a NBA title.
Del Negro has no championship pedigree. He lucked into having Derrick Rose drafted on his team in each of their first years in the league. Then he lucked into both Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. Denigrate Del Negro as much as you’d like for however little you thought he actually coached the most successful Clippers team ever. But he was at the helm for the impossible, the Clippers succeeding.
Yes if the Clippers go on to win a banner worth raising, all of the Clippers fingers waving a number 1 in the air will point squarely at Del Negro as the cause holding them back. But be careful what you wish for Clippers. The Lakers were supposed to get better without Mike Brown and Bernie Bickerstaff. The coaching apparently wasn’t the problem.
Del Negro can still go and coach anywhere in the NBA, and be proud of his resume. He made the Clippers better. He left them (not by choice) when he was on top. That’s something Bill Russell can never put on his most impressive resume. Phil Jackson, Red Auerbach, and Greg Popovitch are all time greats, something Vinny Del Negro is not. But none of them can brag about VDN’s accomplishment. It’s like flying a plane made of cement, it’s impossible.
He might never get closer to winning a title as a coach, but some part of Vinny Del Negro, probably the same part of Lane Kiffin that wants to coach high school football, is privately happy. And if Del Negro really wanted some job security, he should go take a college or high school job somewhere. But that would require both coaching and recruiting, which are two very hands-on tasks.