When George Karl was on the hot seat last summer, the Kings reportedly looked into hiring Kentucky coach John Calipari.
A few months later, Karl’s job is still insecure, and Calipari still might still be the target.
The belief still is it’s a matter of when, not if, Karl will be removed as the head coach.
If that should happen during this season, the short-term answers are, according to owner Vivek Ranadivé – or sources say – he would like to move Nancy Lieberman into the head-coaching position, making a big splash by having the first female head coach in NBA history. Vlade Divac, the GM is more inclined to fill with Corliss Williamson for the remainder of the season.
But Ranadivé’s biggest dream is to have Kentucky coach John Calipari come out and coach this roster full of Kentucky players.
The belief is that Ranadive will take another run after Calipari plans to make an offer that Calipari simply cannot refuse.
A source with knowledge of the Kings’ thinking directly denied this claim speaking to ProBasketballTalk, saying the Kings have no plans to make any offer to Calipari.
For what it’s worth, Bucher first reported Ranadivé was targeting Michael Malone as coach in 2013. The Kings hired Malone that year, their only offseason coaching hire under Ranadivé’s watch.
Calipari would be a fantastic hire, because all the top high school players would follow him to Sacramento. The Kings would become infused with and talent, creating one of the best – what? That’s not how it works?
Calipari has come a long way since he went 72-112 while guiding the late-90s New Jersey Nets, but I’m not convinced he has become an NBA-caliber coach. I might give him a chance if he’s desperate to return to the league, but I wouldn’t make the monster financial offer likely necessary to lure him from Kentucky.
Ranadivé thinks differently than I do, though. He wants to generate buzz, and Calipari would certainly do that. He’s one of the biggest names in basketball.
Would Calipari actually take the job? He seems happy at Kentucky, and he can leverage this interest into a raise from the Wildcats that makes him even happier. But Sacramento has two of his former players in DeMarcus Cousins and Willie Cauley-Stein plus Rajon Rondo, who played at Kentucky before Calipari arrived. Cousins is a franchise talent, and a president-coach dual title would certainly be appealing.
The politics of getting that point are fascinating.
Kings general manager Vlade Divac didn’t hire Karl, and though he said the coach would remain through the rest of this season, Divac has given multiples indications he’s on a different page than Karl. But Divac’s lack of faith in Karl could cost him his own job if Calipari gets front-office control.
Like with Divac, while Cousins reportedly asked the Kings not to fire Karl now, that doesn’t mean Cousins wants Karl for the long haul. Cousins might just recognize that a midseason shakeup would ensure another lost year. But come the offseason, he could push for Calipari or at least a change from Karl.
The Kings clearly want to build around Cousins. Calipari might just the mentor Cousins needs, someone who can help Cousins become more emotionally mature. Once that happens, Sacramento would truly be on the path to success.
But, at that point, it would be on Calipari to assemble a roster around Cousins. Does that excite anyone besides Calipari? Maybe Calipari is up to the task. Again, I wouldn’t rush to find out.
Lieberman, hired this offseason as the second full-time assistant coach in NBA history, would not be on my short list of potential head coaches. But neither would Williamson. When teams fire a coach midseason, they often must rely on uninspiring alternatives.
Whatever happens, it seems the Kings are quite prepared to part ways with Karl. He was supposed to be the flashy hire, but that has resulted in an 11-19 finish last season and a 4-9 start this season
If Ranadivé wants to turn heads now, Lieberman or Calipari would certainly do the trick.
If the owner wants to win – well, why worry about that? Making a splash is so much easier.