When the Sacramento Kings fired Mike Malone last Sunday, it came as a surprise to much of the league — a surprise met with criticism in most corners because the Kings were playing as well as could be expected this season.
It was a surprise to Malone himself, the now-former coach told Bill Herenda of CSNBayArea.com.
“I was surprised given the progress the team was making but being around the NBA, I know the rigors of the business,” Malone told CSN California in an extensive phone conversation.
Malone, however, was gracious and thankful for the experience, including to owner Vivek Ranadive.
“I want to thank Vivek for giving me my first head coaching opportunity in the NBA. I’m forever grateful and wish nothing but the best for the Kings….
“I also want to thank the fans of Sacramento. A coach cannot ask for more support and I want them to know how much I appreciated them.”
Among the things Malone did well in Sacramento was help guide DeMarcus Cousins to a more mature game. Most of that credit needs to go to Cousins, obviously, but Malone was there to channel it in the right direction, something that will benefit the Kings long term.
“I feel as though DeMarcus and I have a special connection and bond,” said Malone. “We both want what’s best for the other man and the team…. We both hate to lose.”
Malone will land on his feet. Executives around the league saw the steps the Kings took forward in the past couple years and there are more than few franchises out there that could use the structure he helped provide. He may be an assistant coach again for a year or three, but he will and should get another shot in the big chair.
Hopefully with a less meddling, more patient owner.