The Sacramento Kings are still struggling to get on the same page as George Karl. While the organization has made it abundantly clear the DeMarcus Cousins will not be traded, and equally clear that George Karl is the head coach of the team, the rift between the coach and the organization still isn't repaired. Karl is notoriously stubborn. He's had great success in the NBA by doing things his own way, and he is understandably slow to bow to the will of others. While he isn't actively sabotaging the team through the media, there are still signs that the relationship isn't fully repaired.
Sactown Royalty editor emeritus Tom Ziller pointed out in his daily must-read NBA newsletter that Karl is still using very specific language in every interview. In a column by Ken Berger of CBS (who is normally quite good but finds himself repeating many lazy generalizations about the Kings organization), Karl is quoted saying:
"I think Cuz and I have got to figure out how to come together and how to commit to each other," Karl said.
Karl has hammered this concept of Cousins needing to "commit" ever since the immediate fallout of the trade rumors before the NBA draft. There's never been any indications that Cousins is anything less than committed to the Sacramento Kings. A lot of this seems to be continued fallout from Karl's reported unhappiness with Cousins sitting out games at the end of last season. Karl wanted Cousins to play, Cousins wanted to rest his body instead of killing himself in meaningless games. The games were meaningful to Karl because Karl desperately wants the all-time wins record.
Perhaps Cousins should have played in more of those games, but I'm not going to fault the franchise player for listening to his body and allowing it to recover. Cousins has never been accused of being soft. He's played through injuries on multiple occasions, and tried to play through a mystery illness that turned out to be viral meningitis.
And if Karl wants to win a lot of games this year, he needs Cousins. Karl needs Cousins more than Cousins needs him. For what it's worth, Cousins needs to do his part in the healing process as well. No more emoji tweets or half-veiled jabs. But if the rift between these two men can't be mended, the organization will choose Cousins, and they would be right to do so.
Karl seems aware of this. Perhaps that's why he still seems to be quietly pushing an agenda against the organization. On Wednesday there was a seemingly small piece of information shared by Gary Woelfel, a reporter who cover the Milwaukee Bucks.
I've been told Kings management won't allow George Karl to hire his son Coby as an assistant coach. George and Coby are extremely close.— Gery Woelfel (@GeryWoelfel) July 15, 2015
Hmmm, I wonder who might have told Woelfel this? I wonder which person, who might have once been with the Bucks organization and might have a long-standing relationship with a long-time Bucks reporter, might have told him such a thing? Who would be slighted by this information? Who would benefit by this information being out there? There really only seems to be one logical conclusion.
If this is true and the Kings blocked Karl from hiring Coby, some might view it as the Kings not wanting to add salary or allies for a coaching staff they may soon need to replace. That could be true, except that the Kings have otherwise allowed Karl to assemble a fantastic staff of assistant coaches. Assistants who have been around the league, who have worked with Karl before, and we've heard of no other issues.
I see this as the Kings rejecting nepotism on their bench. Karl pushed the Denver Nuggets organization to sign his son as a player. Now that his son's playing career isn't going anywhere, he wants to hire his son as an assistant. While there's no shortage of nepotism in the NBA, this is a pretty blatant example of it. Coby Karl has no experience as a coach at any level. If he wants to get into coaching, let him earn his way into the profession. Michael Malone was a coach's son, but didn't start his career by working for his father. He worked his way through the ranks and eventually hired his extremely experienced father as an assistant.
The Kings said they wouldn't pay money for Karl to add an inexperienced coach who had no qualifications beyond being the son of the head coach. And yet, that doesn't seem to be the narrative surrounding this story. How odd.
Karl needs to end his push through the media. He's stubborn, I know. But he needs to recognize that he's lost this battle. The bigger picture, that all-time wins record he so desperately wants, that's the war. Karl needs to focus on the war yet to be won instead of the battle already lost, or he's going to lose both.