The Sacramento Kings want to win now and end their record 16-year playoff drought. Internally, they do not see this as a slow rebuild.
Which is why three veteran coaches — and no up-and-coming assistants — are on the list of reported finalists for Kings’ job. Mark Jackson, Steve Clifford, and Mike Brown have advanced to the second round, according to multiple reports.
Golden State assistant Mike Brown and Brooklyn consultant Steve Clifford are among finalists for Sacramento Kings’ head coaching job, sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) April 30, 2022
Mark Jackson has emerged as a finalist for the Sacramento Kings head coaching job, sources tell me and @sam_amick. Kings GM Monte McNair has begun to notify candidates whether they will move onto in-person meetings.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) April 30, 2022
The throughline on all three of those candidates? They are defense-first coaches. After a season where the Kings finished 27th in the league in defense, general manager Monte McNair and the rest of the Sacramento decision makers clearly — and wisely — think improving defensively is the fastest path to respectability.
Of course, the Kings were 25th in offense, so there is work to do on that side of the ball as well.
Clifford has been the head coach in Charlotte and Orlando, and in five of his eight years as a head coach his team has finished in the top 10 in defense. Brown also has been a head coach for eight years, taking a LeBron James Cavaliers team to the Eastern Conference Finals, and for the past six years he has been Steve Kerr’s lead assistant with the Warriors. Mark Jackson was the head coach of the Warriors for three seasons — before becoming a lead analyst for ABC/ESPN broadcasts — and Steve Kerr credits him with teaching the Stephen Curry Warriors to play defense.
The new coach needs to bring an identity to a Kings team and organization lacking one. There’s some offensive firepower on the roster with De'Aaron Fox running the point and Domantas Sabonis inside, plus some quality role players such as Harrison Barnes and Davion Mitchell. Getting that group to be a solid defensive unit could be a tall task, but do it and the Kings have enough offensive weapons to win some games.
And maybe end that playoff drought. There will be pressure on the new coach to do just that.