Sacramento GM Vlade Divac wanted to do this mid-season — it was obvious by then that the relationship between his coach George Karl and his star player DeMarcus Cousins was beyond repair. Frankly, that was obvious way back in July when Cousins was tweeting that Karl was a snake in the grass because it was the coach lobbying for the Kings to consider trading Cousins. Back in February, ownership blocked Vlade’s move to get a new coach.
Not this time around — the Sacramento Kings have fired Karl as their coach.
This had been expected (which may be an understatement). Sacramento finished the season at 33-49 — the most wins since Cousins has come to Sacramento. However, with the team heading to a stunning new arena in downtown Sacramento next season, owner Vivek Ranadive wants better than that — he wants a playoff team (the Kings have missed out for 10 years in a row). Under Karl, the Kings played at the fastest pace in the league, but that didn’t suit their personnel. The result was a decent offense but a bottom 10 NBA defense.
“While I would have loved to continue on this journey, I am very proud of our work and I want to thank Kings management for the opportunity to have coached this exciting team with such a bright future,” Karl said in a released statement. “It’s my heartfelt feeling that the magnificent new arena will be hosting many playoff runs and an eventual Championship, which the Sacramento fans, some of the most loyal and supportive people I’ve ever known in my many years in the NBA, very much deserve. With a profound humility, moving forward, I wish nothing but the best for this franchise and its players.”
The next coach the Kings hire will be Cousins’ sixth since joining the team. That’s dysfunction. The franchise needs to find stability and continuity or it will continue to flounder. Which means owner Ranadive needs to step back from the process and not be hands on — let the basketball people make basketball decisions.
The Kings are going to cast a wide net in their coaching search, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.
My first bit of advice to Divac: Talk to Cousins about potential coaches. That doesn’t mean he gets to make the decision, but let his voice be heard. That matters and helps mend fences.
Divac will lean on former coach Rick Adelman to help with the search and talk candidates, reports Sam Amick of the USA Today. That’s a good move.
The Kings are expected to reach out to the big names on the market — Tom Thibodeau, Scott Brooks, Jeff Van Gundy — but the reality is all those guys have other options and will choose a more stable organization. The Kings are not seen as a top NBA coaching job. Ranadive isn’t going to buy a name coach with a larger paycheck (those coaches will get plenty of green anywhere they choose).
However, the Kings can do well with the next tier of coaches: Chris Mannix of The Vertical at Yahoo mentioned Kevin McHale, a big man Cousins should respect and who is very personable. Marc Stein mentioned Nate McMillan. There are quality up-and-coming assistant coaches who could be good fits.
The keys are these: Pick a style of play first, and being up-tempo with Cousins is not the answer; then pick a coach who can best implement that style; and finally stick with that coach for at least two or three seasons. Let them build a culture (as Mike Malone had done) and don’t decide on a whim to go another direction mid-stream. Keep the owner at arm’s length — Ranadive needs to check his ego and stay out of the way. Try continuity.
We’ll see if the Kings are up to that task.