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2016 Roundtable Report Cards: Front Office and Coaching

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In our final look back at the season, we take a look at the people who both assembled and ran the team: the front office and coaching staff.  Needless to say, I don't think anyone was pleased with their performance this year, and George Karl ended up losing his job and possibly career over it.

As per the poll, the grading scale I used was as follows:

A: Excels

B: Exceeds Expectations

C: Met Expectations

D: Below Expectations

F: Fails

Feel free to share what your own individual grades are in the comments below!



Blake: F

George Karl did not coach the Sacramento Kings well. He let Ben McLemore, Marco Belinelli and James Anderson stand in the way of Seth Curry's development, he feuded with DeMarcus Cousins and let Rajon Rondo dribble his way to another losing Kings season. He did help Cousins find his outside range and helped spark Omri Casspi and Darren Collison. He also got the team over the 30-win mark for the first time in a long time. I am not convinced that was coaching and not a deeper roster, however. His small accomplishments alone are not nearly enough to overshadow this poor coaching job.

Bryant: F

Despite the fact that I still think Karl is a smart, smart basketball man, he refused to make needed adjustments to the offense and defense as the season spiraled out of control. He overplayed his favorites, kept too tight a leash on others, and let Rondo get away with no defense despite the fact that Darren Collison had better, statistically proven success. He failed to make a bridge with his superstar, and while I understand that a lack of backing from the front office undercut his power with the volatile Cousins, in the end, I think Karl deserves more blame for the Karl/Cousins relationship than DeMarcus. I think the onus of building that trust should fall more on the 65 year old long-time NBA coach than on the 25 year old player, even one as complex as DeMarcus. Best of luck to Karl long-term, but this year was a terrible last stand.

Greg: D

I've been critical of Karl, so it's easy to forget that I was all in on Karl and crew going into the season. I was among the many who expected cooler heads to prevail and for winning to cure whatever chemistry issues existed. I saw many issues with the rotation and the schemes throughout the year. More than anything, I wanted better from the Karl era, and I expected more.

Will: F

The coaching staff completely and utterly failed to live up to expectations. One of the top five scoring teams in the league, top of the world in terms of pace and it doesn't really matter because the offensive and defensive schemes, the ability to connect with players, the lack of adjustments; just about everything other than a couple of solid stats say that this coaching staff was a wreck. George Karl was supposed to be able to win everywhere he went. For a Coach of the Year winner, it was expected that he understood the modern minutia of the NBA game. If nothing else, it was expected that he and the rest of the staff could adjust when it was very clear that certain strategies weren't working. They did not. I'm sure there is a way to defend a terrible defensive strategy or  continuing to play a slumping Belinelli far too many minutes even, but another failure I place at the feet of the coaching staff is their lack of developing even a single player on this year's roster. Which player got better this year? DeMarcus grew a 3 pointer. Acy finally got enough burn to show his worth. Seth only got run after the end was decided. Which of our young guys showed improvement or proper handling? Not-a-one.

Brad: F

Other than the offense, defense, timeout management, rotations, media relations, leadership, and player development I think that George Karl did a fine job.

section214: F

There are certainly a lot of mitigating circumstances here. But that could be applied to everyone involved here from the owner down to the ass-end of the roster, so the grade is applied here based solely on the results. And the results were pretty abysmal.

Look, I won't argue that this roster lacks upper-end talent. I think that DeMarcus Cousins is a top 15 player in the league (your mileage may vary), but that is looking at him on an island and not considering his impact overall on his teammates, coaches and front office. After Cousins, there may not be a top 90 NBA player on this roster (Rudy Gay would have cracked the list but not this year...but I'm getting ahead of myself). But...

When you look at the balance of this roster and compare it to what Memphis put on the floor for 82 games, or what Portland brought to the table, or even Dallas, as well as Utah and Denver, the Kings should have been in the mix to play .500 ball, which would have possibly meant a playoff spot. This team severely underperformed despite tepid expectations. George Karl and his staff could not find a way to win more games than Terry Stotts, Rick Carlisle, Quin Snyder or Michael Malone. Here's some "fun" with numbers: both Luke Walton and Steve Kerr notched more wins this year than Karl's Kings of Komedy.

To be fair, Karl didn't have a pot to piss in by the time summer was over. To be equally fair, he had a pretty big role in removing the pot. Hired by an ownership group that shifted directions only weeks after they hired him, George Karl was sold a bill of goods. Don't feel sorry for him, as he will be rewarded handsomely when he returns said goods to the team store (George kept the receipt, and he will not settle for store credit).

Bottom line, virtually any coach instructed by the front office to run up-tempo with DeMarcus Cousins as the centerpiece is probably doomed to failure. Michael Malone knew as much and got canned for his protestations. George Karl knew it and was ultimately canned for being savvy enough to know that it wasn't going to work, and then pretty much proving that it wasn't going to work. That said, George Karl seemingly resigned himself to his fate, collected his paychecks and awaited the inevitable. I will add that future coaches are doomed to the same grade if something significant doesn't change as it pertains to the front office's vision of what this team should be and what type of players fit that vision.

Akis: F

George Karl is a Hall of Fame coach who will rightly be remembered as one of the best coaches in NBA history.  But he saved his worst for last in Sacramento.  Karl's style didn't necessarily fit the makeup of the team, but there seemed to be no effort on Karl's part to make adjustments as needed.

The energy and fire that Karl had in the past seemed to have diminished in his time in Sacramento, and I think the players sensed that.  It was a bummer to see Karl go out the way he did, as I had high hopes when the Kings brought him on board.  But sometimes, the biggest names aren't always the right fits, and Karl joins guys like Dick Motta and Paul Westphal as coaches who enjoyed immense success elsewhere but couldn't replicate it in Sacramento.

Commenters: F

Out of 1,065 responses, 51.9% voted for F, 36.2% voted for D, 10% voted for C, 1,3% voted for B and 0.5% voted for A. On a 4 point grading scale, this comes out to a 0.62, an F.

Front Office

Blake: C- D+

The only reason this was not a D+ is because Vlade Divac drafted Willie Cauley-Stein and signed Seth Curry. He went all in on Rajon Rondo, Marco Belinelli and Kosta Koufos, but it just didn't work out. The public fiasco between the front office and George Karl also probably deserves a D+ grade. Ah forget it, sorry Vlade -€” you get a D+.

Bryant: D+

Vlade's first act as the great compromisor didn't work out, and neither did the roster he constructed (regardless of Karl's role in that). I trusted in Vlade with the free agents last year, and while Rondo was technically a "success", the only sure-fire long-term piece out of the puzzle from last summer is Willie. I'm glad he didn't panic and blow up the team at the trade deadline, but he hasn't left a pretty roster picture for the next coach to inherit. Bonus points for Seth Curry, though. 

I advocated that the Kings keep Karl in February and early March, if only because I worried that firing him rather than letting him play out the year would make the organization look even more feckless. The indecision along the way from the ownership group down made that all but impossible. Get this next decision right, big guy.

Greg: D

Difficult grade considering I would have given them a B after free agency. The Kings mishandled the Cousins/Karl dynamic. I'm not going to argue about how it should have been handled, but I think we can all agree it was handled poorly. Particularly bad was the resurgence of leaks from the front office as the season went on.

Will: D+

Vlade, Mike Bratz and Co. showed themselves to be pretty cool cats this last offseason. Even with a couple of players supposedly taking less money to play outside of Sacramento, the Kings had possibly their most successful free agency period since, well, maybe ever. They had the foresight to bring in veteran leadership in Caron Butler, the brought in a perfectly good bench big in Koufos, had a good thought in Belinelli and took a chance on Seth Curry. If it was that alone, I would have graded them in the solid B range. The handling of George Karl this season however, was pretty much a catastrophe. Calling an audible at the All-Star break to keep Coach Karl on board, a move which Vlade said he had the power to change, and then firing George's favorite assistant; it was bizarre and classless, and it stunk of amatuer business dealings. In the end, firing George was the right idea, but the manner in which it happened was a huge disappointment.

Brad: C

I think that Vlade built a very good team, and think that the roster he put together could be a winning roster if they had been properly coached. Still, whether it was his fault or not, they let the coach stick around despite everything wrong with his tenure here, so I cannot  give high grades.

section214: F

Some qualifiers here -€” I am including ownership as being part of the front office, and I am only looking at the basketball side of the operations. I would give ownership a screaming purple A for what is developing downtown right now. As a native Sacramentan of 57 years, I cannot describe my excitement and enthusiasm for what is about to take place there.

With all of that said, I give Vlade Divac an "A" for effort, but I give the front office an "F" for results.

I have used the word "systemic" so many times in the threads that it is beginning to lose its meaning, but the bottom line is that basketball operations for your Sacramento Kings are a mess, and that starts at the top and works its way down. The front office spent $7m more on payroll this season than the Utah Jazz, and $11m more than the Portland Trail Blazers. On top of that, the Kings forfeited (or cut bait on) their 2014 1st round draft pick, dealt a future 1st round pick, and offered a pair of potential 1st round pick swaps to Philadelphia. While I laud the effort of going "all in" with DeMarcus Cousins (and to a lesser extent, George Karl), the puke proof is in the results. And those results are 33 wins, 11 games behind a Portland roster that does not look appreciably better than the Kings, 9 games behind a crippled Memphis squad, 8 games behind a completely disinterested Houston team, 7 games behind a Utah team that certainly does not look superior on paper, and tied with the Denver Nuggets.

When the front office pulled the trigger on the Philly deal, I was on board. As I noted at the time, you either needed to go all the way with Cousins or deal him. Tick-tick-tick. Well, the result has been a tire fire. Kings ownership wound up firing its third coach in as many years. The cap room generated by dealing off all of those assets in the Philly deal created $15.8m in additional cap space. Whether you chop that into Rajon Rondo and Kosta Koufos or Rondo and Marco Belinelli, the result is an unmitigated disaster when you look at the assets surrendered for a 33-49 record. Could this change? Could Belinelli be better next year and could the Kings become a playoff team that never swaps picks and winds up selling a future 1st round, non-lottery draft pick for the equivalent of over $20m when you factor the remaining contracts of Carl Landry and Jason Thompson? Sure. But in the here and the now, that deal sucked pretty hard.

Of course, the bigger problem was the mishandling of the coaching situation from the early summer throughout the season. The front office basically emasculated George Karl, letting everyone know that the lead inmate indeed ran the asylum around here. Even if you want to blame George Karl 100% for this (and Karl is certainly no saint here), the organization's refusal to take action by either (a) appropriately disciplining DeMarcus Cousins and establishing Karl as an authority figure (something that they are now promising to do for the next coach) or (b) firing George Karl during the summer. Option "c" -€” trading Cousins -€” was basically taken off the table by the Philly deal. But did anyone ever feel good about the Karl/Cousins relationship once the snakes were spotted in the grass? I certainly held out hope for the best (41-41!), but the truth of this season was evident by the December.

I think that it is fair to say that if Pete D'Alessandro were the head of the front office right now and not Vlade Divac, there would be pitchforks and torches outside of the arena. Vlade has gotten at least a little bit of a pass for being such a beloved folklore character (though criticism began to catch up with him by the end of the season). The new arena will be shiny, but I think that the goodwill for the front office is gone. It is a results-driven world from now on.

Akis: F

The Kings put all their cards on the table last summer.  Their goal was to get to the playoffs no matter the cost.  They unloaded a ton of assets to Philadelphia to get cap space for players they didn't want anymore (one of which was a lottery pick from a year ago).  They spent more money in Free Agency acquiring new players than at any other time in Sacramento Kings history.  They put it all on the line... and they failed. Miserably.

This was supposed to be a team that contended for the playoffs.  That hope ended sometime around late January, and even then, the Kings were barely scraping by in contention for a playoff spot with a below .500 record.  Vlade's biggest free agent acquisitions failed to make a lasting impact, with Rondo likely gone this offseason, Koufos not fitting well with DeMarcus Cousins, and Marco Belinelli forgetting how to shoot.

The few credits Vlade gets to his name don't seem to merit much praise either.  Small value signings in Seth Curry and Quincy Acy worked well, but there was little risk in those signings.  The pick of Willie Cauley-Stein was good, but that draft appears to be so good that it almost seems like it would have taken effort to miss out on a good prospect.

The relationship with George Karl and the handling of DeMarcus Cousins were other areas of concern.  Karl wasn't hired by Divac, and Divac failed to give Karl the backing he desired, especially when it came to the Kings' enigmatic star.  Karl responded poorly, but even still, it's not unfair for him to expect support from the higher ups in the organization.

This organization needs a new plan, vision and goal and it has to start this summer. Hopefully the hiring of Dave Joerger and filling out the front office with guys like Ken Catanella will help and the Kings can finally start building the right way instead of always looking for shortcuts.

Commenters: D+

Out of 1,072 responses, 34.4% voted for D, 31.2% voted for C, 20.1% voted for F, 13.5% voted for B and 0.7% voted for A.  On a 4 point grading scale, this averaged out to a 1.4, a D+.