Friday, June 25, 2010
Updated: June 26, 12:58 PM ET
Sources: Clippers narrow search
By Kevin Arnovitz
The Los Angeles Clippers have narrowed their coaching search to two candidates -- current Dallas assistant coach Dwane Casey and former Chicago coach Vinny Del Negro, sources close to the situation said on Friday.
Casey and Del Negro will interview with the Clippers' brass Monday and Tuesday, with the exact order still to be determined, a source with direct knowledge of the Clippers' coaching search told ESPN.com Saturday morning.
Clippers owner Donald Sterling and general manager Neil Olshey had decided last week that they wanted only someone with head coaching experience. The Clippers are seeking a replacement for Mike Dunleavy/Kim Hughes, the combination of coaches who led the Clippers to a 29-53 record last season.
The most recent short list of candidates for the Clippers circulating in the media had included ESPN analyst Mark Jackson; former Minnesota coach and executive Kevin McHale; Utah assistant Tyrone Corbin; and former Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Woodson. The Clippers also had conversations with Houston assistant Elston Turner two weeks ago.
By zeroing in on Casey and Del Negro, the Clippers have resurrected a rematch between the two finalists for the Bulls' coaching vacancy in spring 2008. Del Negro ultimately landed the job in Chicago, where he strung together consecutive 41-41 seasons along with two first-round playoff appearances before being fired this year.
Casey compiled a record of 53-69 during his season-and-a-half tenure in Minnesota. He was fired midway through the 2006-07 season after the team split its first 40 games. After Casey's dismissal, the Timberwolves finished 12-30 -- never winning consecutive games under replacement Randy Wittman.
The Clippers fired Hughes April 16 after finishing the season 8-25 under his direction. The organization's traditional modus operandi with both free agents and available coaches is to monitor the market.
True to form, the Clippers have been moving through the process with deliberation -- maintaining contact with their favored candidates while allowing other teams with vacancies to act first.
Meanwhile, Olshey said before Thursday's draft that last year's No. 1 pick Blake Griffin is completely healthy after having surgery in January to repair a fractured knee cap he suffered in October. Olshey said this week that Griffin can play nowm, but that he won't participate in summer league.
Griffin will be eligible to be rookie of the year because he didn't play this past season. The Clippers selected Wake Forest sophomore Al-Farouq Aminu at No. 7 Thursday and then picked up Kentucky freshman guard Eric Bledsoe in a trade with Oklahoma City, which picked him at No. 18, as a backup for Baron Davis at the point.
The Clippers will send a future first-round pick to Oklahoma City in the deal. The Clippers then got a potential steal late in the second when they drafted Oklahoma sophomore guard Willie Warren at No. 54. Warren was projected to be a 2010 lottery pick at the end of last season but injuries and illnesses limited his effectiveness this season. Warren played one season with Griffin at Oklahoma.
According to a source close to LeBron James, the Clippers remain an outside shot at landing the high-profile free agent, with Cleveland, Miami, Chicago and New Jersey as the favorites.
Kevin Arnovitz is an NBA contributor to ESPN.com. Information from ESPN.com senior writer Andy Katz was used in this report.