Due Diligence: Will the Kings Research Paul Westphal's Recent Failures?

I don't mean to damn a man before he gets a chance to work some flavor of magic in this lost town, but we have already heard from two highly reputable fans who witnessed the last two Paul Westphal implosions.

Seattle native and Basketball Prospectus analyst Kevin Pelton told us what Westphal did to break up the Sonics by the turn of the millenium: he jerked around his loyal vets to give an out-of-shape Billy Owens a starting job and mismanaged his stars. Clips Nation blogger Steve Perrin, a Pepperdine alum, told us how Westphal ran that university's program into the ground, not with recruiting violations or bad recruiting, but by underachieving on the court with decent talent.

Has management done any background? Because me, if I see a Seattle team that regressed heavily in the switch from George Karl to Westphal, I'm talking to as many people close to the situation as I can. Me, if I see that shrinking win total for Pepperdine over the course of Westphal's tenure, I'm calling up the coach's players, assistants. I'm calling up boosters, alumni. If I'm forking over $3 million plus, I'm doing my due diligence.

I have no idea if the Kings have done or will do their due diligence. But we do know that when the team hired Eric Musselman three years ago, they didn't fully check into his past. Sure, the owners and Petrie called the coaches Muss had been an assistant under, the GMs who employed him as a No. 2 on the staff.

But the only team of which Musselman had been a head coach? Nope. Monte Poole of the Oakland Tribune:

Gavin Maloof, asked if he contacted the Warriors, related a story.

"I tried calling the Warriors ... well maybe I should say that," he said. "But I couldn't get past the message machine. So we made an attempt to call. I think I left a message. I think. But I was talking to a machine, so I think I left a message for Chris to call.

"But I didn't hear anything."

I hear the volume being turned up on this regional rivalry.

Gavin insisted he attempted to reach the Warriors, that he wanted to hear what they had to say. Failing to make contact, however, had zero effect on his decision to endorse Musselman.

Gavin did reach somebody in Oakland. He spoke with Raiders senior executive Mike Lombardi, who provided a glowing recommendation.

So it was left to Petrie to get the goods. He's the basketball guy. Maybe he could get some specifics on what happened to Muss in Oakland. He could grill executive vice president Chris Mullin, or general manager Rod Higgins or team president Bobby Rowell.

No, yes and no. Petrie did make contact with Higgins.

"I talked to Rod more about Mario [Elie], actually," Petrie said.

So let's get this straight. Kings ownership never contacted the Warriors regarding Musselman, but they know where the Raiders stand. The team president contacted the Warriors, but mostly to discuss someone the Kings weren't going to hire.

Does this concern you as a Kings fan? When you're making this sort of committment, trying isn't good enough. Maybe the Warriors wouldn't have been honest. Maybe Muss was a saint in Oakland, only to turn into the drunk-driving, abrasive hologram we know in Sacramento. But it would have been nice to have an idea of what the team was getting into before the hire.

Calling the Westphal fans, that's easy. Kevin Johnson, Tom Chambers, Charles Barkley, Jerry Colangelo -- of course they'll be thumbs up on the guy. Lon Kruger, Jerry West, Mike Fratello -- of course they'd be high on Muss. But you have got to look at the other side of that sandwich before taking a bite. There's probably a reason 29 other dudes left it on the table.

The idea of another "grand experiment" frightens the front office, and I don't bemoan that. The Reggie Theus caper -- letting a minimally experienced mid-major coach take over ... without hiring a lead assistant with head coaching experience or any coach with defensive chops -- did a lot of damage to the psyche of management, no doubt. That's fine.

I'm not cool with "grand experiments" either. (Remember the spittle that covered this blog when Rick Pitino emerged?) But I'm equally not cool with cheap damage-control hires. I'm not cool with using all the available power of being the only franchise with a vacancy to ... hire someone no other team would seriously consider at this point. Every top assistant or out-of-work coach in the nation will interview with you. Meet with them! Pick their brains! Consider them seriously. Be bold if the potential benefit is right. No one ever gets elite without a few risks. Omelettes and eggs and all that.

(One more question: what the Hades happened to Brian Shaw? The team was about to hire him two years ago. He's still on the Lakers bench, right next to Kurt Rambis [whom should interview today]. How do you go from Choice 1B to Choice Zero in two years without a corpse in your trunk or a very public meltdown? Has Shaw's agent told the team he's no longer interested? This seems unlikely, considering Byron Scott could very well be available next summer should Phil Jackson decide to step down after one more season.)

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