LOS ANGELES, The strong relationship between Los Angeles Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro and owner Donald Sterling could mean Del Negro will be back with the team in 2013-14.
Del Negro's contract is up this summer, and discussions about which way the franchise would go began almost immediately after the team lost to Memphis in the first round of the NBA Western Conference playoffs.
And while there is a general feeling the front office wants to move in a different direction this offseason, the final decision on the coach belongs to Sterling.
The Clippers had a historic season, setting records for most wins (56) and longest winning streak (17). They won their first division title in franchise history, and Del Negro was named Western Conference Coach of the Month after the Clippers went undefeated in December.
During the season, Del Negro and the Clippers had preliminary discussions about a contract extension but couldn't reach an agreement.
The case for Del Negro centers on continuity and the team's successes despite injuries to key pieces all season.
In his only interview after the season ended, Del Negro reiterated he wanted to remain as coach.
"I'm proud of what we've done here. No one's happy about not getting by the first round and having a longer playoff run, but those things happen. This isn't easy stuff," Del Negro said. "We've set every franchise record you could set in terms of a lot of things. I'm proud of a lot of things we've done, a lot of which had never been done."
According to an ESPN report, at least one other team with a coaching vacancy is interested in Del Negro if he's not retained by the Clippers.
The Clippers couldn't repeat their postseason success from a year ago, blowing a 2-0 lead against the Grizzlies in the first round.
During the series, Del Negro was criticized for being unable to contend with Memphis' adjustments.
If the Clippers and Del Negro part ways, former Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy and Golden State assistant Mike Malone are among those who could be considered.