As fans, we want to believe. We want to believe that the decisions made by the Kings are the right choices. We want to believe that everything is moving in the right direction. We want to believe that the decision makers have some clue of what they are doing. But as much as I want to believe that the Kings made the right decision in extending Keith Smart, I can't believe. Not again.
Let's back up for a moment, and review a key quote from the organization:
"In our gut, it feels right," Kings co-owner Joe Maloof said Monday afternoon. "We think [he] has done a great job for us, and in spite of our record, we feel we're getting better. We don't want any more coaching carousels, all those negatives going into next season. We know it's going to take time to rebuild and we want to know who our coach is."
Man, that's just a great endorsement right there. Makes sense. We don't want the coaching carousel anymore. We still suck, but we feel like we're improving. Man, that just fits the current team perfectly, doesn't it?
Too bad that's a quote from when Paul Westphal was prematurely extended.
At the time Westphal was extended, I defended the decision (in the article linked above). I bought into the arguments of avoiding a lame duck status. I bought into the idea that this young team was improving, even if it wasn't by leaps and bounds. I bought into the idea of stability.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
I will not defend this extension, even though I really like what Keith Smart did with the team last season. I do believe the team is improving and moving in the right direction. I believe the team needs stability, and to end the coaching carousel. I believe all of those things. But I no longer believe that these things excuse the rash decision to extend Smart.
The ideas of stability and steady improvement didn't save Paul Westphal. Westphal went down in flames a mere 8 months after he was extended. As Tom pointed out this morning, stability means that you exist and are a constant. Extensions to ensure stability do not address one's performance as the coach.
So why extend Smart now? Tom postulated that it may be so Petrie can show stability and an upward trajectory as Petrie enters his own negotiations for a extension. While that could very well be the case, I personally see this as yet another budgetary move by the Kings. If you let Smart play out this season and offer an extension at the end, you run the risk of the Kings actually improving. Let's say Smart guides this team to the playoffs, or barely misses them. Suddenly Smart can demand a bigger paycheck. And he will have earned it. The Maloofs would have no choice to pay Smart, or find themselves in yet another PR nightmare.
Because the organization is continually run with one eye on the court and the other eye on the checkbook, the Kings needed to lock up Smart based purely on the possibility that we might field a competitive squad this season. That is wholly depressing.
If that happens, if Smart takes this team to the brink of the playoffs or even to an 8th seed, this move will be applauded. How wise of the Kings to recognize what they had in Coach Smart, and to lock him up for another season at a discount! But if that narrative unfolds, we should remember the real reasons we've been presented.
The team wants continuity. And that continuity includes the bargain basement price the team pays for its head coach.