Another challenge for Vinny Del Negro
LOS ANGELES -- Given how his tenure with the Chicago Bulls ended and how his new job with the Los Angeles Clippers has begun, it would be easy to understand if Vinny Del Negro second-guessed his decisions.
But Del Negro said that hasn't happened. He has moved on after being fired by the Bulls and is trying to figure out how to turn around the Clippers.[+] EnlargeDerick E. Hingle/US PresswireVinny Del Negro has the Clippers playing hard, if not winning games yet.
"That whole scenario's behind me," Del Negro said of his Chicago exit. "I've moved on and they've moved on, and that's the way that professional sports is. I can't worry about that. I'm just happy for Jo [Joakim Noah], I'm happy for Taj [Gibson], I'm happy for Derrick [Rose].
"I'm happy for the fans there, they're always very supportive and packed the United Center. I can't worry about that stuff [from the past]. I'm happy for those individual guys, but this is a whole new situation. It's different. But I'm enjoying it, even though our record's where it's at. We have a lot of work to do."
After posting his second straight 41-41 season and two trips to the playoffs, Del Negro was fired by the Bulls on May 3. But he didn't stay unemployed for long as the Clippers hired him on July 8.
Aside from a surprising win over the New Orleans Hornets on Monday night, there hasn't been a lot for Del Negro to be excited about in Los Angeles. The Clippers are 2-13 and have been forced to play the youngest lineup in the NBA because of injuries to veterans Baron Davis and Chris Kaman.
"I enjoy the challenge, like I've always said," Del Negro said. "Is it a perfect situation, in terms of where we're at right now? No, but I knew that going in. I could have sat out this year but I enjoy the competition. I enjoy seeing the young guys develop and we'll just keep working. I don't worry about things I can't control. I just go about my business every day and try to improve individually as a coach, collectively as a staff to try and help these young guys get better."
Del Negro has found a building block in former No. 1 pick Blake Griffin, who missed last season because of a knee injury. Griffin, who is averaging 18.9 points and 11 rebounds a game, reminds Del Negro of another No. 1 pick he used to coach -- Rose.
"They're great kids," Del Negro said. "Great workers, coachable. [They] want to get better. You've got to throw them out of the gym. Those guys are easy, from the standpoint that they want it, and they're just great kids. I have a lot of respect for them because they're putting in the work. Just like Derrick did. He put in the work, he wanted to work on his shot. He was in there doing things, watching film, coachable. The same thing with Blake. Blake's been fantastic, and he'll just continually improve."
Having coached Rose during his rookie year, Del Negro knows some of the challenges Griffin is experiencing.
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"It's a tough situation for him now because we don't have Chris [Kaman], we don't have other veteran guys to take some pressure off him right now," Del Negro said. "So the double teams are coming and the different things, and he's still a rookie. You look at where Derrick is his rookie year to where Derrick is now, he's a different player. And Blake will be the same way because they're such great kids, competitors and workers."
Del Negro said he still keeps in touch with Rose and a few other Bulls players.
"When I got the job and everything, guys were texting me and congratulating me," Del Negro said. "When Joakim got his deal done, he texted and called some of the coaches. He was very appreciative of all the work we put in with him. I saw Derrick this summer and Taj this summer, I see them. But they have to focus in and they have their job there. They got to do that and I have to do this, but you can never take the memories away.
"You can never take the relationships away. And that's what it's all about at the end of the day. It's about the experiences you go through, some good, some bad. You learn from them, you move on, you work hard, you keep your integrity and your character and you do the best you can and move on."
Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.