The Sacramento Kings shocked many in the NBA world when they abruptly fired head coach Mike Malone last week. Malone is respected in league circles and most rival scouts, coaches and executives believe he had been doing a good job coaching the team. He was also popular in the Kings’ locker room, particularly with star DeMarcus Cousins.
Almost instantly after the move landscape-changing rumors of the long-term replacement hit the wire seemingly every other day — George Karl, Mark Jackson, even Vinny Del Negro — leaving Tyrone Corbin in a lame duck situation. We reported last week Karl was considered the early front-runner.
Now sources tell PBT that though the team is still very interested in hiring Karl, they are hesitant to pay an expected asking price in the range of $5 million per year or more.
In the meantime they have allowed themselves to be connected to former Warriors coach Mark Jackson, staging a not-so-secret meeting at Sleep Train Arena following Thursday’s nationally televised game that Jackson called for ESPN.
Sources tell PBT that Jackson has “no chance” of being the Kings’ next coach, adding that the meeting was both personal in nature and mutually beneficial for all parties – sending Karl a message at the negotiating table and for Jackson, keeping his name in the news as a future head coaching candidate.
Karl has made it no secret that he would like to coach the Kings, and the team would appear to have a way out of their coaching mess if they can strike a deal.
Hiring Karl can be sold to a frustrated locker room and fan base as an upgrade, albeit a very messy one that’s going to leave a mark if not dealt with soon. It should be no surprise that the Kings’ locker room has grown tired of the ongoing circus surrounding this front office decision, made by Pete D’Allesandro and signed off on by owner Vivek Ranadive and advisor Chris Mullin.
Had Malone been doing a bad job – on or off the court – there wouldn’t be quite the urgency to find a replacement. But with the collective head-scratching going on in the locker room and on both sides of the wall surrounding the royal kingdom, the lack of action on Plan B is going to continue being a distraction. While reports have said Corbin will get to finish out the season, a hiring sooner than that would help stabilize the situation.