The Kings stepped onto the floor with new head coach Tyrone Corbin at the helm on Tuesday for the first time. The game came on the heels of Sunday's news that Michael Malone has been fired. The Kings lost to a tough Oklahoma City Thunder team 102-94 on the same night that Kings legend Peja Stojakovic had his jersey retired.
Following the game, the topic of Malone being fired was the main line of questioning from reporters. The players seem to be in full support of Corbin, but most expressed how caught off guard they were by the change. Rudy Gay said Malone factored in "a lot" in terms of his decision to sign an extension with the Kings.
Below is what several of the players had to say.
On whether they were surprised
Darren Collison: "I think it caught everybody by surprise, but in this business, it is what it is. We wish Mike [Malone] well; he's a good coach. Respect him highly. I'm sure he's going to have a future job somewhere, but I think the organization is looking to go in a different direction .... It's been frustrating because you never say it's a good time to have change, but it is what it is."
Rudy Gay: "It came as a surprise to me, so I can't say I felt it needed a change. It definitely came as a surprise, but that's not my call. It's way above my pay grade."
Ben McLemore: "I didn't see this coming … second year, me and Ray [McCallum] have been talking about this, how many teammates we've had so far as a rookie and going into our second year and now having our first coach fired … I was pretty shocked."
On Michael Malone
Collison: "He gave me a lot of leeway to be myself and a lot of freedom. So I respect him for that. Just allowed me to be a point guard in this league."
Gay: "I can sit here and talk all day about what I've learned from him. I think he's made me a way better player, offensively and defensively. Once I got here, he allowed me to get a chance to expand my game and I thank him for that."
Ryan Hollins: "Coach Malone poured his heart into what he did man. I have the upmost respect for him and everything he's done for myself, my family and this team. He's going to be alright. He's one of the great basketball minds in our game and he's one of the hardest workers that I know. But that's a part of the business."
Carl Landry: "I trust in this organization, I trust in the owner, his staff and I believe with what they are trying to do we'll become a better basketball team. And that's not taking anything from coach Malone because like I said, he's the best coach since coach Adelman of the last decade."
Ben McLemore: "I thank him a lot for the things he did, and worked with me and helped me improve as a player and helped me learn more about the game."
On Tyrone Corbin
Collison: "He's been there before. He knows what it takes to win games. At the end of the of the day, you've got to respect him as a coach."
Gay: "We've had one practice and shootaround so it's too early to tell. But I'm confident in him, I know he's done it before and we have to just believe in him no matter what."
Hollins: "Ty has got so much experience, not just coaching, but as a player. You can't make that up. He's still finding his way and picking his moments. We're behind him ... From his Utah days, he likes execution, likes to get the ball on the block and that's not too different from coach Malone so you'll probably see different play calls, but he's the same competitor. As far as difference, I don't think we will ... We ran a lot of our same plays tonight and that's just respect to coach Mike Malone. I don't think Ty is coming in trying to just change everything that Michael did ... he's going to put his own imprint on the game but we believe in him."
McLemore: "It's a little different, but we know what we need to do to adjust to it. That's all we've got to do is just adjust to what he wants us to go out there and do."
On moving forward
Collison: "This isn't a time to put our heads down or feel sorry for ourselves. We've got to find a way to come together and still try to win. Teams are coming in here, they don't care what our situation is ... I think we'll be alright, I think we'll eventually get over the hump."
Gay: "Everybody has been pretty professional. You know, but it's tough. I'm not going to sit here and say it's easy to just come in here and play for a new coach even though we've been around coach Corbin. And obviously, it's not easy for coach Corbin so all around it's tough."
Landry: "I just trust in ownership and hopefully we become a better basketball team."
McLemore: "We all have just got to move on now and focus on getting better and trying to figure out what we need to do helping this organization get better."
Hollins: "It's going to be tough man, but that's adversity and that's professional sports. He's not the first head coach to be fired ... So I know coach Malone will be alright ... It's not my opinion to know what goes on behind closed doors, it's my job to come in and play because let me tell you something, there's always going to be something going on behind closed doors and we come in to work and be ready. I'll run through a wall for coach Malone and I'll run through a wall for Ty."
You can watch DeMarcus Cousins' reaction from Monday here, via News 10's Sean Cunningham.