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On Keith Smart's future with the Kings

Two of us consider whether Keith Smart should be retained by new Kings management.


Akis and I decided to make arguments as to why Keith Smart should be retained or let go by new management ahead of next season.

Ziller: Okay, so I don't think Keith Smart did a particularly good job as the Kings' head coach in 2012-13. In fact, it seemed like he did a poor job. But his degree of difficulty was one of the highest in the league, with a bad roster, a moody star, by all accounts a very thin scouting staff (does he even have an advance scout?) and a basically vacant front office.

He didn't do himself any favors with bizarre line-up decisions. But we have to acknowledge that if he had better players, he wouldn't have to make those types of decisions. (I know Warriors fans who saw Stephen Curry sit as a rookie would disagree.) It's a well-worn cliche in the NBA that players make coaches look good or bad. The Kings have largely bad players. Ergo, some of what makes Smart look bad is that the players are bad.

More than that, I think Smart could potentially help the transition to new ownership and a new front office if retained. If you can get Jerry Sloan, Mike Budenholzer, Brian Shaw or Stan Van Gundy, by all means, do it. But if it's a choice between Smart and a retread or a mid-rung assistant prospect, I don't see the point. This team is not going to compete overnight. Allowing for just a little continuity in the organization might be a positive for some of the young players. DeMarcus Cousins didn't act particularly well under Smart this season, but the coach at least knows his triggers, just what his attitude is like and how to be around him. A new coach would add that learning curve to what we'd already expect to be an uphill battle.

I'm not advocating the Kings keep Smart. But I wouldn't be apoplectic if they did. Also, I should note that I've softened considerably on Paul Westphal's tenure. But that's a subject for another time.

Akis: There's no question that Keith Smart was dealt a bad hand becoming Head Coach of the Sacramento Kings. First, he takes over one of the youngest teams in the league during the middle of a lockout shortened season with almost no time to practice, but actually does an alright job, enough to at least earn him a second chance to see what he could do with a full year.

That second chance, aka the 2012-13 season, was pretty terrible. Outside drama and influences aside, the product on the court was supposed to be better. The Kings supposedly upgraded their bench with the additions of Aaron Brooks, James Johnson and Thomas Robinson and hopefully would see continued improvement from their other young players. Keith Smart spent the entire off-season setting up a new offense and creating team events to build team chemistry. However, the offense Smart designed clearly did not complement the players he had and he was forced to abandon most of it relatively early on in the season. By the end of the year, some players had already clearly tuned Smart out and despite seeming improvement in the team play after the trade that brought in Patrick Patterson, Toney Douglas and Cole Aldrich, the team's winning percentage had only improved from .333 to .342.

A new ownership group has the chance to come in and start fresh immediately, and that will begin with bringing in a new GM and a new Coach. The only reason I would see for keeping Keith Smart around is if there is a legitimate belief that he could be the Coach of the future. After two years, I don't think there are many who would say that. No, the team likely won't transform into a playoff team overnight, but it will help a new coach/front office establish a foothold and create their own blueprint, one untainted by Smart or Petrie or the Maloofs.

Ziller: Okay, you convinced me. Fire Smart! Fire Smart!