As two members of the class of 2015 ACC Legends, Vinny Del Negro and Shane Battier have made the move from the NBA to broadcasting look as seamless as a crossover dribble.
They were among the 14 former players and coaches from the current members of the conference who were honored at a luncheon Friday afternoon, hours before the ACC tournament semifinals.
Del Negro, the MVP when he led N.C. State to the 1987 ACC tournament championship, downplayed any description of himself as a legend.
“Very few people have success alone,” he said, crediting his wife, family, friends, teammates and coaches for their help along the way. “It’s great to come back and represent N.C. State for the weekend.”
After a 12-season playing career in the NBA, Del Negro served as head coach of the Chicago Bulls for twoseasons and the Los Angeles Clippers for three seasons. Despite owning a .557 winning percentage, the best in franchise history, Del Negro did not get his contract renewed by the Clippers two years ago and returned to broadcasting.
He lives in Atlanta, working for NBATV, TNT and Sirius XM Radio, which he termed “fantastic.” He is also in demand as a motivational speaker, but he makes it clear he wouldn’t mind returning to the bench. In December there was some talk that the Sacramento Kings were interested in him for their vacancy, but he said the discussions never got serious.
“Obviously I love coaching and would like to get back in it,” Del Negro said. “It has to be the right situation for everybody. The coaching profession has changed over the years, but I like the challenge of it, seeing teams improve.”
Battier is enjoying his rookie season as a college basketball commentator for ESPN after 13 years in the NBA. The national player of the year on Duke’s 2001 NCAA championship team has been working the ACC tournament this week and did the Duke-N.C. State quarterfinal Thursday night. He said he’s enjoyed his return to the college game.
“Although I followed ACC basketball from afar, there’s nothing like walking into places like the Dean Smith Center or the University of Virginia,” he said. “It brought back some memories of a fun, happy time of my life.”
He said broadcasting seemed like a natural progression. “It’s always difficult to walk away from playing the game,” he said. “It’s something I’ve done for most of my life. I wanted to go into broadcasting because it keeps me around the game.”
Coaching, at least at present, is not in the picture. “I’ve yet to find a happy coach,” he said. “I’m a happy person. They’re either miserable after a loss or they’ve moved on after a win. Maybe someday, but at this time it doesn’t appeal to me.”
Battier said he has more fun introducing his 6-year-old son Zeke to the game.
“I took my son to his first Duke basketball game this year,” Battier said. “We did the double, a football game and a basketball game. He got to shoot baskets in Cameron before the game. I don’t know if my heart can feel any bigger.”
Battier said his son has already developed an appreciation of the sport.
“He’s pretty sharp,” Battier said. “He caught my last years in Miami (playing for the Heat). Your sense of reality is a little warped when you see LeBron (James), (Chris) Bosh and Dwyane Wade all the time. But he has the bug, and it’s fun to share that with him.”
Others honored: Ten other players and two coaches were honored at the ACC Legends luncheon. They were Malcolm Huckaby (Boston College), Horace Grant (Clemson), Doug Edwards (Florida State), Bobby Cremins (Georgia Tech), Junior Bridgeman (Louisville), Darius Rice (Miami), Rusty Clark (North Carolina), Troy Murphy (Notre Dame), Billy Knight (Pittsburgh), Donald Hand (Virginia), Charlie Moir (Virginia Tech) and Dave Budd (Wake Forest).
Edwards was not present because he is an assistant coach at South Carolina, which is playing in the SEC tournament. Derrick Coleman of Syracuse was announced as that school’s legend, but he requested that his recognition be delayed in light of the school’s self-imposed postseason ban.
Best line: Cremins, who also works as a college basketball commentator, served up the best one-liner of the day. Addressing Rusty Clark, he said, “Rusty, I want to apologize for hitting you in the groin. You were 6-10, and (South Carolina coach) Frank McGuire told me to get in there and box that guy out.”