When the Kings fired head coach Mike Malone after a better-than-expected start to the season, it was a head-scratcher to most observers who had witnessed marked improvement in Sacramento over the team’s first 24 games.
The Kings opened with a record of 9-6 against one of the league’s tougher schedules, and DeMarcus Cousins was putting up numbers at an All-Star pace, while playing much more under control and keeping his emotions in check.
Once Cousins went down with a case of viral meningitis that still has him sidelined, the losses began to pile up — but that happens to any team that loses their best player; just ask the Thunder about that.
An overarching conflict over style and tempo was what sealed Malone’s fate in the eyes of ownership, rather than the resulting wins and losses in the immediate future. With Kings brass looking to push the pace, they may be looking at a coaching candidate who recently was at the helm of one of the league’s more explosive offenses.
From Sam Amick of USA Today:
Yet late Tuesday night at Sleep Train Arena, after the Kings fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder 104-92, another possible candidate emerged in the most convenient of ways: former Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson. After calling the game courtside for ESPN, Jackson had a lengthy meeting with Mullin, Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro and franchise centerpiece DeMarcus Cousins inside the “Chairman’s Lounge” where they had requested that arena workers and others give them some privacy.
Jackson, Mullin, and Cousins entered the room at approximately 10:20 p.m. Pacific time, with Cousins sporting a black suit as he continues to recover from his bout with viral meningitis that has kept him out of action since Nov. 26. D’Alessandro joined them approximately 20 minutes into the meeting, and the group finally exited just before midnight, long after the room had been cleared so that they could have a moment to discuss, well, connect the dots yourself.
This doesn’t necessarily signify that Jackson is now a candidate for the head coaching job in Sacramento; he and Mullin have known each other since high school while growing up in the same basketball circles, D’Alessandro was a video coordinator at St. John’s in Jackson’s final collegiate season there, and Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé was a minority owner of the Warriors while Jackson roamed the Golden State sidelines.
But while those connections make for legitimate reasons why this could have simply been a friendly visit, they also could be ties that strengthen Jackson’s candidacy.
The fact that Cousins was included is significant, and though Jackson was seen as more of a preacher than an Xs and Os genius during his time with the Warriors, his players seemed to respond to his tactics. Jackson, like Malone, was similarly ousted because of disagreements with the front office. With so many friends in Sacramento, that may not be a problem this time around should the Kings decide to go in this direction.