Clippers Should Go With Experience, Choose Casey Over Del Negro
He was discussing his new post as the head coach of the Chicago Bulls, outlining how he went from former player to radio man to a brief stint in Phoenix's front office and all the way to the head coach's chair at the United Center. But as one attendee remembers, he didn't exactly stir the inner Red Auerbach in them all that day.
Del Negro revealed that he hired his own headhunter, as well as a sports psychologist, to help him understand exactly what the Bulls might ask and how exactly he should answer the many questions during the interview process. Or, as the observer noted, "I'm sitting there thinking, 'Man, you bought cheat sheets.'"
Del Negro -- who sources confirmed to FanHouse is a finalist with former Minnesota coach Dwane Casey for the Clippers vacancy -- doesn't need to cheat this time around. He has real experience now, having gone 41-41 and fallen in the first round of the playoffs in both of his seasons with the Bulls before being fired on May 4 in the wake of his battle royale with executive vice president John Paxson.
But he's still no Casey.
The current Dallas assistant coach is a forgotten gem in the NBA, a heralded assistant during 11 seasons in Seattle who coached in Japan for five years with Pete Newell and whose long-awaited head coaching opportunity in Minnesota just so happened to coincide with the dismantling of the Timberwolves' roster. Yes, Kevin Garnett was still there when he took over in 2005.
But there was no Sam Cassell and no Latrell Sprewell and no Wally Szczerbiak midway through his first season, meaning the mix that had gone to the Western Conference Finals in 2004 would only continue its downturn. Casey paid that price, going 33-49 in 2005-06 and surprisingly being fired midway through the next season despite Minnesota being in the Western Conference's eighth playoff spot with a 20-20 record.
Hindsight became 20-20 for anyone who watched the situation from there, as Minnesota was clearly better off with him than without. The T-Wolves went 12-30 under Randy Wittman to finish the campaign, but it would take a 26-75 record in his next two seasons to get him fired early in the 2008-09 season .
Casey's firing cut short the chance he'd waited so long to earn, as he had been a head coaching finalist so many times before. He did so again this summer, losing out to Larry Drew in Atlanta when it looked as if the Hawks job was his.
His story is a reminder of what's too often forgotten in this league, that coaching is, in fact, a learned profession and prior experience should be factored in far more than it seems to be. Too often it comes down to the politics: who knows who and whose agent holds more sway.
Ironically, that was Casey's perceived edge in Atlanta, where general manager Rick Sund is an old friend of his from their Space Needle days. Ironically, Casey is represented by an agent in Warren LeGarie who has certainly been known to divide a few rooms.
So perhaps this is the perfect job for the coach whose reputation seems to supersede all that. Clippers owner Donald Sterling has longtime team president Andy Roeser running this show, and sources say the Clippers will likely interview both candidates on their respective merits in the coming week with a decision expected soon thereafter.
It's not as sexy as some of the other options that were expected to be considered, whether it was Byron Scott, Brian Shaw or even Phil Jackson possibly joining LA's other team or Larry Brown leaving Charlotte to run the whole Clippers Nation.
As the Clippers so often do, they left those involved confounded once again. They said they'd wait until July 1 to begin this search, seemingly to gauge their place in the LeBron James sweepstakes before proceeding as productively as possible. And now, out of nowhere, they're almost done.
We all know Sterling & Co. need help from time to time, so just know this Clips: Hire Casey and no one gets cheated.
E-mail Sam at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @SamickFanHouse.