Locker room dissention plus confusion on the court equaled the firing of Paul Westphal as coach of the Sacramento Kings. The team made the announcement Thursday.
Keith Smart will take over in the interim, starting Thursday night when the Kings host the Bucks.
The Kings were 2-5 but not really playing even that well, with both an offense and defense in the bottom five in the league (in points scored/allowed per 100 possessions). After a loss the other night point guard Tyreke Evans said nobody really knew what the offense was supposed to be in crunch time. They looked it.
Then there was Westphal’s ongoing feud with DeMarcus Cousins. The second-year center is a Primma Donna who has detractors in the organization and around the league, but the public handling of issues and recent sitting him for a game had become a bigger distraction than it needed to be. By Westphal releasing a statement to the press saying Cousins demanded a trade he created wedge that didn’t need to exist. Westphal was clearly frustrated and not sure how to handle Cousins, but his moves exacerbated an already difficult situation.
According to Kings co-owner Joe Maloof, Westphal’s firing is more about the fact the team stunk and was not improving than it was about Cousins. NBA.com‘s David Aldridge spoke to Maloof and then tweeted this.
Kings co-owner Joe Maloof says while the Cousins/Westphal dynamic was part of the issue, “none of the guys were playing to their potential.”
The issue with the timing of the move is it makes it appear Cousins has won, which may embolden his behavior. That said, 29 other general managers would have chosen the potential of Cousins over what Westphal was giving the team. This is a team that needs some real leadership, both by a coach and a veteran in the locker room.
That leadership — and accountability — needs to start with Kings GM Geoff Petrie. He is the guy who has hired Eric Musselman, Regie Theus and Westphal in succession. He has made some smart draft picks but has in general assembled a team that does not work together, with questions about how all the pieces fit. He’s the guy buying the ingredients, if the dish doesn’t taste good he has to take some of the blame. Which makes this tweet from Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated interesting.
Per this tired routine, Kings GM Geoff Petrie spent recent days distancing himself from the coach in discussions with Maloofs and others.