The sun is shining over Vinny Del Negro's shoulders as he spends an afternoon by the pool of the Grand Bohemian Hotel in downtown Orlando.
Del Negro and his team have arrived in town on the heels of a slow start to their Grammy trip, having lost three consecutive games. But instead of letting any sense of worry seep out, Del Negro is confident and relaxed on this Tuesday afternoon.
Instead of the tense pacing people see during games, Del Negro is lounging back and noticeably relaxed.
His team is going to get healthy, he thinks. And once they do, the team is going to be fine heading out of the NBA All-Star Game break.
He knows these things; just like he knows that he'll be the one getting all the blame if it doesn't work out.
"It's not right. It's disappointing," he said. "But I can't control what people say or do. I can just control the preparation of this team and organization."
Despite plenty of criticism and skepticism about his abilities as a coach, Del Negro has the Clippers playing the best basketball in franchise history for the second consecutive season. They'll start the second half of the season Thursday with the third best record in the Western Conference and the fourth best in the NBA.
In the final year of his contract, there are indications that he and the Clippers have discussed a contract extension.
Has that kept the critics at bay?
Not a chance.
But Del Negro doesn't feel sorry for himself. This was the nature of the job.
In 2008, Del Negro was the Phoenix Suns' assistant general manager, working in the town he retired to after a professional basketball career that spanned more than 14 seasons.
He was on the path to running an NBA team in the front office when the Suns asked if he'd like to interview for the team's vacant coaching position.
"They approached me; I didn't approach them," he said.
Clippers' Del Negro unconcerned with critics
Orange County Register | Feb 20