Last season, the Los Angeles Clippers were the best basketball team in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Lakers were a distant second. That does not occur often and thus the Clippers would like to keep things that way. However, as of right now the Clippers do not have a coach.
After having their most successful regular season in franchise history, with a 56-26 record, they elected to fire coach Vinny Del Negro.
SBNation.com is reporting that the Clippers have several candidates in mind to replace Del Negro. The highest on the list currently is former Clippers, Phoenix Suns, and Detroit Pistons coach Alvin Gentry. Obviously, having worked for the franchise before, there would be some immediate familiarity with the situation.
Also on the list are Indiana Pacers assistant coach Brian Shaw, Memphis Grizzles head coach Lionel Hollins, former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Byron Scott, and former head coaches Jeff and Stan Van Gundy.
All the candidates have solid to good resumes, the question comes down to who will entice Chris Paul to remain in a Clipper uniform? The Clippers top priority this offseason is to keep Paul in the fold.
With that being the mandate, handicapping the candidates becomes easier. The Van Gundy brothers are known to drive their players crazy. Jeff Van Gundy and Steve Francis clashed constantly about Francis dribbling the ball too much, which is exactly how Paul likes to play. Many consider Stan Van Gundy’s handling of his point guard situation in the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers the reason his team lost the series.
Paul and Scott have worked together previously in New Orleans and while the team had some success, the two did not always see eye to eye. Scott also had some problems with Jason Kidd during his tenure as New Jersey Nets head coach.
Hollins is an up in coming coach and he took the Memphis Grizzles further than many expected. His dust up in Game 4 of their series against the San Antonio Spurs, with point guard Jerryd Bayless, should not be held against him. His team plays hard and seems to buy into what he is selling. It would be a mistake if the Grizzles let him leave.
Shaw would probably try to implement the triangle offense and that offense may not suit the personel of the Clippers roster. Furthermore, Paul probably is not willing to go through the growing pains of a rookie head coach.
That leaves Gentry. Gentry has taken a team to the Western Conference finals lead by a point guard who handles the ball on almost every play, Steve Nash. He would give Paul the freedom to execute the offense the way he likes. His previous experience coaching and getting along with stars may help him as well. Gentry coached a young Grant Hill while with the Pistons. He coached Elton Brand to his first All-Star appearance. He coached Nash and Amare’ Stoudemire as well.
The Clippers roster may need adjustments to contend for a championship, but one adjustment it does not need is to lose Paul. The first step in maintaining him is a coach he can get on board with and buy into his program. For Clipper Nation sake, hopefully management chooses the right guy.