When Paul Westphal was abruptly fired as Head Coach of the Sacramento Kings, it was largely because he had lost the team, and particularly, its best player, DeMarcus Cousins. Westphal essentially put out the ultimatum "Him or Me" and the organization wisely chose Cousins. In Westphal's wake, the Kings promoted assistant Keith Smart as the full-time Head Coach for two years.
Smart did a good job of connecting with his players and trying to get the many mismatched pieces to work together. Under Smart, Sacramento's offense became the fastest paced in the league, partly due to Smart's philosophy and the fact that Isaiah Thomas soon became the primary playmaker over Tyreke Evans. Smart also made DeMarcus Cousins the primary focus of the halfcourt offense and brought in lauded big man coach Clifford Ray to work with Cousins as well as the other Kings big men.
However, despite the incredibly fast pace, the Kings offense was still not particularly strong or efficient, finishing just 21st in Offensive Rating. Despite scoring the 6th most Points Per Game, the Kings finished 26th in Field Goal Percentage at just 43.6% for the year. Defensively, the team was absolutely atrocious, with only the Charlotte Bobcats having a worse Defensive Rating. The Kings also allowed the most opponent points per game, the third highest Field Goal Percentage, and the second most assists.
Last year as the head coach of the Golden State Warriors, Smart led one of the most potent offenses in the NBA, finishing 12th in Offensive Rating, 7th in Points Per Game and 5th in Pace. He played to his team's strengths, but again made little improvement to the team's defense. Part of this simply had to do with the fact that the Warriors were constituted of a team made up of young players and poor defenders. There is a similar issue with Smart's current Kings squad.
Smart was thrust into a very volatile situation for his second chance at a Head Coaching career, in the midst of a lockout condensed season, at the helm of one of the youngest teams in the league led by a sophomore player with a big attitude and ego. In this writer's opinion, he did about as well as he could considering the situation. That does not mean he should be given a blank check going into next season. There are very real on court issues that need solving before the Kings become good again, and if Smart and the team do not begin to make serious headway on these fronts next season, there should be no guarantee of another contract.
I like what I've seen so far, but this is a make or break year for Keith Smart.