When all is said and done, I’ll always remember Vinny Del Negro as the terrible-haired coach of some mediocre Chicago Bulls teams that probably should have been better than .500. But that’s because I’m a Bulls fan. For all you other peeps, it’s quite likely VDN will always be a San Antonio Spur in your mind. He spent six seasons with the Spurs as a sometimes starter, making you laugh every time you opened a pack a cards and saw his last name.
But we’re not the only ones who closely associate Del Negro with the Spurs, despite the fact he’s been tied to eight other franchises. As it turns out, even the Spurs still consider him a Spur, just maybe not in the way he wants to be remembered. From ESPN:
“Some of the stuff we do on defense, we actually have one thing we call on the pin downs, we say we’re going to ‘Del Negro it’ and that’s in his honor and we’ve done that for 15 years,” Popovich said. “We have a Del Negro defense out there because he couldn’t play a lick of D. At times we had to invent something just to hide him, so we call it ‘Del Negro’ and you do certain things on the court and everybody has to make up for that guy who’s the ‘Del Negro.’”
Classic Popovich, am I right? Always with the sly jokes that you don’t really ever expect. Word to Thumbs Up Gregg.
Of course, as there is with any Popovich joke, there’s definitely a kernel of honesty in this zinger. Even though Vinny Del Negro hasn’t played basketball for him since 1998, there is probably still a huge part of Gregg Popovich that is super frustrated that Del Negro didn’t play any defense back in the day. I’m sure if you asked and he wasn’t feeling particularly vengeful, Gregg Popovich could easily recall a few specific possessions where VDN didn’t fight through a screen properly or failed to rotate quick enough during some meaningless March game that still drives Pop crazy. Why else would he keep “Del Negro it” around as a phrase for needing to cover for a teammate on defense?
Lucky for Vinny, by the time he’s done with his coaching career, “Del Negro it” will have a totally different meaning. I’m not sure if the term will be redefined as fighting upper management about whether or not a player should be playing, totally messing up your team’s timeout situation or waiting too long to make substitutions, but there are more than a few options.