clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

This is the Kings first formal head coaching search in seven years

New, comments

Five head coaches, three general managers, and two ownership groups later, the Kings are finally playing the field for a head coach

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

While Vlade Divac has been making calls to the next head coaching candidates, much has been made of the fact that no Sacramento Kings head coach has lasted two years since Paul Westphal. Since then, Keith Smart, Mike Malone, Ty Corbin, and now George Karl were all swiftly axed before their post office mail forwarding expired. Its a fact that has underscored the constant dysfunction suffered by the powers that run the franchise.

The 2009 offseason was the last time the Kings conducted a formal interview process to find their head coach. Geoff Petrie picked Paul Westphal to spearhead the team after interviewing candidates like Kurt Rambis and Tom Thibodeau (whoops!). Unfortunately, even at that time, Maloof gonna Maloof as the decision was mostly based on money; Westphal would be working for $1.5 million per year, pennies in the NBA coaching world.

When Westphal was fired in 2012 after an ugly 2-5 start to the season (losing by 23 to the Blazers, by 10 to the Bulls, by 22 to the Knicks, by 17 to the Grizzlies, and by 27 to the Nuggets), the Kings promoted Keith Smart to the head chair. Smart had been let go by the Warriors the prior offseason and hopped aboard the Kings coaching staff as Westphal's assistant. Its notable that Smart was never given the title of interim head coach; he *was* the head coach after Westphal's departure.

The Maloofs were fresh off a failed relocation attempt to Anaheim and by this time basketball operations had taken a decided backseat. There was no coaching search in the 2012 offseason; Smart was the man, through and through. He would last the entire 2012-2013 season in the midst of the Maloofs' public relocation and sale pursuit to Seattle's Chris Hansen. Meanwhile, on the court,, the entire Kings roster grew weary of Smart's bizarre rotation; this was the same guy famous for benching Steph Curry in crunch time in favor of Acie Law. This time, it was Isaiah Thomas of all players, not known to be vocal to the media off the court, who would speak out about the frustration.

In the 2013 offseason, after relocation was blocked and the team was sold to Vivek Ranadive's ownership group, Smart and Petrie were relieved of their duties. But Vivek never conducted a full search to find a head coach. Instead, he targeted Mike Malone, another assistant of the Warriors, as his guy, and within two weeks of purchasing the team, Vivek had his man inked. Vivek hired Malone on May 30th before he searched for a general manager; he was *that* sure on Malone being the guy, and Malone was a coveted assistant. Pete D'Alessandro was hired as general manager two weeks later in June, a short time before the Draft and Free Agency kicked in.

Some would say the timing of the two hires was Vivek's biggest mistake. Whoever you believe was the driving force behind Malone's shocking ouster in December 2014, everyone can agree that the dynamic between Malone, Vivek, and D'Alessandro was not healthy and collaborative. The Maloofs were gone, but dysfunction was still alive and well in Sacramento. Tyrone Corbin emerged from the rubble as the interim coach, and then two weeks later his interim tag was removed.

The rest of the 2014-15 season is a blur. The team was floundering under Corbin and pressure mounted on the Kings brass to "make the move". The move, of course, being to get George Karl as the next head coach. The public courting was long and dragged out, and the team floundered on the court in the background. The fans practically begged the front office to make the move. There were reports that the Kings wanted to conduct a proper offseason coaching search, alongside possible resistance from DeMarcus Cousins' agents, and concerns about Karl's pricetag, but eventually the deal was made. Vivek, D'Alessandro, and Karl all signed off, and Karl took over the helm after the All-Star break.

The rest, as they say, is history. D'Alessandro left last offseason after Vlade Divac was installed as his superior. Karl was fired after a tumultuous season, taking his medieval defensive schemes and slavish obsession with his systemless offensive system with him. And Divac is left with the task to clean up the mess.

So, that leads the franchise to its current state today. Since the Westphal era, firing head coaches has not been the problem in Sacramento; its been the process leading up to hiring them  (with the exception of Malone, and even at that time the dynamics between ownership, management, and the coach doomed the partnership). That's not to say that the Kings are finally out of the jungle. Dysfunction didn't leave the Kings with the Maloofs. It didn't leave with Malone. It didn't leave with D'Alessandro. There's no objective reason to believe dysfunction is gone now without Karl. You only have to look at the waffling between firing Karl, then deciding not to, then firing his assistant at the All-Star break, as proof. The Kings will have to prove otherwise

At the very least, the Kings are functioning like a proper NBA team in the way they are looking for a coach this offseason. Vlade has a monumental task to stabilize the franchise. He's fighting a well-deserved reputation the franchise has earned for dysfunction. Its entirely possible that not only will the best coaching candidates pick other head coaching openings over the Kings, but also decide to stay put wherever they are at instead of making the leap into one of only 30 jobs. But this time, its Vlade's show, and the Kings aren't rushing into a decision. Who knows? Maybe the sixth time's the charm.