When the Kings' front office decided to fire Michael Malone one month ago, they put interim head coach Tyrone Corbin in an impossible situation. Corbin had to take over a team that was already in a funk from losing 8 of 10 games without their star player, as well as dealing with the frustration and confusion that Malone's firing caused among the Kings locker room and fan base. On top of all that, he also was given a directive to install a new up-tempo offense in the middle of a season.
Since Corbin has taken over, the Kings have gone 5-8, with even more inconsistency than before. Just this week they blew out the Oklahoma City Thunder and Cleveland Cavaliers at home but also got run out of their own building by the Denver Nuggets.
The Kings management has stuck by Corbin through this transition period, with Pete D'Alessandro going so far as to say that he would be the coach for the rest of the season and that he's got a real shot at the job long term. Even still, almost nothing that management can say or do can make people believe that Corbin really does have a shot to be the guy long term aside from actually giving him a multi-year deal. It doesn't really matter if the fans are convinced or not, but even the players seem to figure that Corbin's tenure is temporary at best.
That being said, some players are referring to Corbin as "The Substitute Teacher". That's real. They aren't buying into this.— Carmichael Dave (@CarmichaelDave) January 10, 2015
In most cases where a coach is fired, it's usually because the team is really struggling and/or the coach isn't reaching them anymore. In this case, the Kings were struggling, but there was the extenuating circumstance of Cousins' illness. One of the first things that Cousins said to the media after Malone's firing was that he felt at fault for being sick, because to him, the Kings wouldn't have fired Malone had he played and the Kings won more of those games (Sacramento went 2-9 with Cousins out). While no Kings player went so far as to publicly question management, almost every player had nothing but good things to say about their former coach. Now Corbin's in charge, and even if the players like Corbin (and I get the feeling that they do), he's not Malone.
Corbin also has to contend with high, unrealistic expectations. Vivek told the media days after Malone's firing that he believed the team could make the playoffs with more wins under Corbin than Malone. There are also the expectations that Malone himself set early in the season when the Kings went 9-8 through the month of November, and 9-6 with a healthy Cousins against the toughest schedule in the league.
None of this is fair to Corbin, which is too bad, because I do like some of the things that he's doing. He has the Kings pushing the break for easy baskets more, taking more three point attempts to stretch the floor and he's also ended the five man line changes, almost always keeping at least one of Cousins, Gay or Collison on the floor at all times.
To his credit, Corbin has taken all of this in stride. He's trying his best to get the team to buy in but it's hard to do that with no long term security when the only way he'll get that long term security is by getting this team to play at a high level and exceed expectations... which can't happen without them buying in.
The game is rigged against Corbin. He can't win.