Del Negro grateful for time with Bulls

Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro previously spent two years coaching the Bulls. Rob Grabowski/USA TODAY Sports

CHICAGO -- Los Angeles Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said Tuesday he was grateful to Chicago Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf for his first NBA coaching opportunity despite being later fired by the organization.

Del Negro was hired by the Bulls in 2008 with no coaching experience. He had previously been the Phoenix Suns assistant general manager. The Bulls went 82-82 and had back-to-back first-round playoff exits under Del Negro. He was fired in May of 2010 after two seasons.

Now in third season with the Clippers, Del Negro thought his time with the Bulls was valuable and had helped him become a better coach. The Clippers are currently 14-6 and in fourth place in the Western Conference.

“I think just the experience of doing it, you know,” Del Negro said prior to Tuesday’s game at the United Center. “When I started here, I had never coached before. Thrown into a great franchise with great history in a great sports town, you jump in and you go for it. Learned a lot, very fortunate, very grateful to Jerry giving me the opportunity.”

Del Negro believes he’s made strides as a coach, but still has plenty of room to grow.

“I think you get better every year,” he said. “You’re always looking to get better individually to make your team better. But there’s a lot of decisions you have to make, quick decisions whether it’s practice, games, game decisions. There’s just a lot of stuff.

“I have to continually grow as a coach. You know, I’m a young coach in the league, and that’s what you have the mindset to do. I’ve picked the brains of a lot of veteran coaches. But you also have to have your own philosophies, your own styles, what you believe in.

“Every year is different. Every team is different. The personnel you’re given is different. But it’s about putting your team in area of strength and trying to win games. We’re doing a better job of that. I think my staff has done a very good job. But we have a very long way to go.”

Del Negro did acknowledge having a more experienced team and a deeper bench this season has also helped make him a better coach.

“It gives you a chance to win,” Del Negro said of having veterans. “If you’re developing, you’re losing usually. You have to have a good mixture. I think what we have on the roster is a good balance. We have some younger guys who need developing. We have some guys in their prime, and we have some veteran guys. So there’s good balance in the locker room, which I think is important.

“We have a mixture of some things. The versatility I think is very important with our roster as well. We can go small or we can go big. We can play fast, slow. We have some different variations, which obviously helps us as a unit to put us in an area of strength hopefully.”