Somewhere near the top of the list of things Keith Smart has to do that his predecessor as coach of the Sacramento Kings (Paul Westphal) couldn’t do is build a good relationship with DeMarcus Cousins.
Cousins is immensely talented but with an ego to match. He’s not loved in his own locker room, other teams around the league are wary. The talent was never in question, but he fell to No. 5 in the draft because of those concerns.
“He’s 21. What was I doing at 21? I was in college with a demanding coach,” said Sacramento coach Keith Smart, who took over for Westphal. Smart played for Bobby Knight at the University of Indiana. “A lot of things that happened at 21 for me got corrected while I was in college. He has to do this in front of all the media and all the world in front of a pressured environment.”
In the world of problems, Cousins is not that big of one — he clashes with coaches but he’s not out getting arrested or in serious off-the court trouble. He works hard on the court — only Kevin Love has grabbed more offensive rebounds than him this season, he is third best on the list of percentage of rebounds grabbed when he is on the floor (only Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum grab a higher percentage of missed shots). Of course, he also leads the league in personal fouls and is 15th in turnovers despite not being a guard.
Smart sees his job as having to help Cousins mature, as Knight helped him mature. Tall order. But if he can do it, the Kings could be set in the middle for a decade with one of the best bigs in the league.