Los Angeles Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro was justifiably proud of his team and himself on Sunday after his team bucked the odds and defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 82-72 at the Fed Ex Forum to win their first round Playoff series by a 4-3 margin. It was only the second time the Clippers had won a Post Season match-up since they moved to Los Angeles and it was the first time that Del Negro had been victorious in a series as a coach in the Playoffs; having lost his previous two outings when he was bench boss of the Chicago Bulls.
A reporter asked Del Negro about his stint as coach of the Bulls when he spoke with the media after the victory. Things did not end well in Chicago for the Clippers coach, as Bulls Team President John Paxson got so upset about his coach’s distribution of minutes, that he accosted him physically late in his second season with the club. The coach would be dismissed after the squad lost their first round match-up against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Paxson apologized for the incident and Del Negro went onto coach the Clippers, while not commenting much on what went down near the end of his time with the Bulls.
The Clippers coach could have taken the high road once again and demurred from commenting on his former team and their fortunes; the Bulls after finishing the regular season as the best in the East, were knocked out of the Post Season in the first round by the eighth seeded Philadelphia 76ers. However “Yahoo Sports” reported that Del Negro used the occasion to reflecting on his days in Chicago and not in a positive way.
Del Negro told reporters “All that (expletive) that I had to deal with John and everything, it was a total cluster(expletive). Listen, I understand the business: I hadn’t coached before, and my first job was in Chicago, where I had absolutely no support. Then I came to this situation, where the history spoke for itself. But I knew it was important to keep working at the craft.”
By spending his moment in the spotlight on Sunday denigrating his former employer, tarnished the experience for the coach and his current team; why he felt compelled to take the bait and push the Bulls faces into the mud escapes me. Del Negro’s vindication should have come from winning the series; it is just as important to be a gracious winner as it is to be amiable after a loss.