Don’t blame Chris Paul for Vinny Del Negro’s firing, Clippers say

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Gary Sacks, the Clippers’ vice president of basketball operations, said Friday that Chris Paul shouldn’t be blamed for the dismissal of Coach Vinny Del Negro, saying it was an “organizational decision.”

Sacks also said that Paul won’t play a major role in deciding who the Clippers’ next coach will be.

There have been reports that Paul was angry because the Clippers’ organization was letting him take all the heat for Del Negro’s departure.


“It was my conclusion that a change needed to be made” and that the Clippers needed a new coach, Sacks told The Times in a phone interview.

Sacks added that Clippers owner Donald Sterling, President Andy Roeser and director of basketball operations Eric Miller, Sterling’s son-in-law, all were in agreement about Del Negro.

“When we decided not to extend a contract offer to Vinny, it was an organizational decision from the top down,” Sacks said. “The front office evaluated this season and Vinny the entire three years [he coached the Clippers] before making this move. It had nothing whatsoever to do with any players.”

This season the Clippers set a franchise record for regular season wins, but they lost in the first round of the playoffs to Memphis.

“We all felt that in order for us to get to where we need to go, that we needed a change and a new coach,” Sacks said. “Every personnel and coaching decision that we’ve made is us as an organization.”

Paul will be a free agent July 1. The Clippers plan on offering the All-Star point guard a maximum contract of five years, worth $107.3 million. Another team can offer Paul a maximum contract of four years and $79.7 million.


Meanwhile, the Clippers are making some progress in finding a new coach.

The Clippers have had preliminary discussions with Indiana Pacers associate head coach Brian Shaw; former NBA coach and current ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy; former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Byron Scott and former Phoenix Suns coach Alvin Gentry.

Memphis Coach Lionel Hollins is another candidate the Clippers are interested in if the Grizzlies don’t offer him a contract extension.

The Clippers may interview some coaching candidates next week.

“We’re definitely confident that we’ll find the right fit for our organization,” said Sacks, who was in Las Vegas to scout players for the draft. “We’re still kind of in the preliminary stages of our search.”

Even the search for Del Negro’s replacement has been something of a sore point for Paul, who hasn’t been happy to see reports that he will choose the next coach.

“I don’t think players should be consulted on any decisions personnel-wise once we decide on something,” Sacks said. “Do we, in the course of talking to our players, get some input? Sure. But all decisions are made strictly by us — 100%. There’s no wavering. There’s no gray area there.”


Twitter: @BA_Turner