LOS ANGELES (AP) — Coach Vinny Del Negro is proud of the Los Angeles Clippers' breakthrough season, even though he doesn't know if he'll be around for the next one.
Del Negro's contract expires this summer after three seasons with the Clippers, who still haven't told him whether he's returning in the fall. He led the Clippers to a club-record 56 victories and their first Pacific Division title this season, but Los Angeles then lost to Memphis in six games in the first round of the playoffs.
The Clippers expect to decide Del Negro's future in the next several days, but Del Negro and vice president of basketball operations Gary Sacks gave no indication what's likely to happen after they meet with owner Donald Sterling.
"You're going to have your ups and downs during the season — injuries, some tough losses — but we've set every franchise record you can set in terms of a lot of things," Del Negro said Monday at the Clippers' Playa Vista training complex.
"So I'm proud of a lot of the things we did which had never been done," he added. "The interesting thing is, when I came here, (we were) trying to create this, so now the expectations are higher, and the results need to be better. And as difficult as the results are right now, I'm actually proud of that, because that's the direction I want this team to go, and that's the mindset I want the organization to have — that it's not good enough, that we can do better. That always hasn't been the case (with the Clippers)."
Del Negro is 128-102 in three seasons in charge of this long-struggling franchise, giving him the highest winning percentage (.557) for a coach in club history. He is the only coach to post consecutive winning seasons since the Buffalo Braves moved to California and became the Clippers in 1978.
Yet Del Negro also is the only Clippers coach who ever had Chris Paul and a healthy Blake Griffin on his roster, and the Clippers' star players receive much more credit for their success than Del Negro, who regularly takes heat for his decisions and rotations.
After praising Del Negro's work ethic and professionalism, Sacks acknowledged that the Clippers' "No. 1 priority" is re-signing Paul, an unrestricted free agent this summer. Although he wouldn't mention specifics, Sacks likes the franchise's chances after his exit interview with the All-Star point guard, who could receive a five-year, $108 million deal in July.
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