As we approach the end of the regular season, we can begin to assess how Dave Joerger has performed as the Sacramento Kings head coach in his first year. We’ve seen Joerger coach the Kings with a roster built around DeMarcus Cousins, and we’ve seen him coach the team in the aftermath of the Cousins trade. Joerger’s rotations have been questioned at times, especially at the beginning of the year, but he’s shown himself to be a really solid coach in the second half of the year.
With Cousins gone, Joerger has increased minutes for the younger players, and we’ve seen tremendous growth from Skal Labissiere, Willie Cauley-Stein, Buddy Hield, Malachi Richardson, and even Georgios Papagiannis. For a coach with a reputation of not playing or developing young guys, this youth movement has come along quite nicely.
But what I find most interesting is how Joerger has developed the team into his image. During the All-Star break, Joerger was on The Ringer NBA Show with Chris Vernon, and spoke about laying the foundation for the type of team he wanted the Kings to be for years to come.
“You want to change from whatever the perception is of whatever’s been going on here, to hey this is fun place to play, guys like being here, we go out and compete our tail off.”
Later in the interview he continued with a similar sentiment.
“You want to go be competitive, you want to go out every night and just compete. That’s the biggest thing when we talk about what can you do to change the culture, that’s what it is. Whatever it is about picks, going forward, and development and all that, if you know ‘gosh darn it, I’m playing those Kings, they just play their tails off man’, and if you’re a free agent like ‘hey you know what, I don’t know a lot about Sacramento, but I know that teams plays really hard and I’d be willing to be part of that going forward’. You know, that’s part of how you want to be going forward.”
Joerger had the team working in this direction before the trade, but I’d argue that we’re seeing the absolute epitome of this vision in the post-All-Star-break version of the Sacramento Kings. The team plays hard. The team plays together. They never give up.
We often talk about holding people accountable to the standards they set for themselves. If we view that interview as Joerger explaining where he’s trying to get the team, I’d say mission accomplished. Obviously the Kings are at a very early point in their rebuild, but Joerger has built a roster that plays the way he wants.