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Del Negro to return as Clippers coach next season

Associated Press Modified: May 29, 2012 at 7:46 pm •  Published: May 29, 2012

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Vinny Del Negro will be back as coach of the Los Angeles Clippers after guiding them to the highest winning percentage in franchise history during the lockout-shortened season.

The team said Tuesday that it has exercised its option on him to return for a third season. Del Negro led the Clippers to a 40-26 record, a winning percentage of 60.6 and the second round of the playoffs, where they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs.

"We think we have the most talented roster in franchise history and Vinny turned that into the best record in franchise history," general manager Neil Olshey said by phone. "Clearly, there was never a question that Vinny was going to come back."

Del Negro has a 72-76 record in two seasons with the team.

"I'm excited about the opportunity to continue the plan we set in place," he said by phone from his offseason home in Phoenix. "I give the players a lot of credit for playing hard and believing in what we were trying to do. I appreciate their effort and my staff's effort."

Del Negro said there was no discussion about extending his deal beyond the one-year option.

"That was not on the radar right now," he said. "It's where I want to be. We'll get to that stuff, but there's a lot more pressing issues for me."

Those include next month's draft and the upcoming free agency period, along with making decisions on current players with one-year contracts. All-Star Blake Griffin can sign a five-year extension worth up to $95 million this summer.

Olshey said no one particular result made him decide that Del Negro should return.

"Vinny does all the right things. There's no greater compliment as a coach than to see how hard his players are playing at the end of the year and that wasn't always the case in this organization," he said. "Even though we lost Games 3 and 4 at home against the Spurs, those players played hard."

While Del Negro is locked up for next season, Olshey's future with the team has yet to be confirmed. He is not under contract for next season and the Portland Trail Blazers are reportedly interested in him for their vacant GM job.

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