by Charlie O. Mallonee
There is not one easy answer to the question of why the Kings fired Head Coach Michael Malone on Sunday night. There are multiple reasons, but the question of timing looms large.
The fact is Michael Malone was not going to be the Kings coach long term. Malone was hired by owner Vivek Ranadive before he hired Pete D’Alessandro as General Manager. It is safe to say that Michael Malone would never have been hired if D’Alessandro had been a part of the hiring decision. That is not to say D’Alessandro does not think Malone is a talented coach, but it does say Malone is not D’Alessandro’s kind of coach.
D’Alessandro (and Ranadive) admire and aspire to build a team that mimics the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs style is sometimes referred to as “positionless basketball”. It is an uptempo style that uses multiple passes and strong outside shooting to decimate their opponents. When you see the Spurs play in person, it is tiring to watch because of the frenetic pace.
In his press conference on Monday, D’Alessandro cited “style of play” as the main reason Malone was dismissed. Malone is a defense first type of coach. He wanted a hard nosed defense to set the table for the offense. Malone’s offense was less than wide-opened. A major schism existed between the philosophies of D’Alessandro and Malone.
D’Alessandro is a data guy. The way he analyzes the success of his team is based on statistics. He is looking for his team to play within certain parameters that he believes will lead his team to success. D’Alessandro wants his team to run and believes any team can run.
Think Billy Beane and Sabermetrics. Rather than batting average, Beane looks for on-base percentage. Rather than setting up the sacrifice, Beane looks for the hitters to swing away based on the data that shows swinging is more productive.
Beane also looks to the system based on the data to be the stability for the team. To some degree, managers and coaches are less important and will be seen as successful as long as they work “the system”.
It appears that Michael Malone was not working “the system” based on D’Alessandro’s data points. It is also safe to say that he was never going to follow “the uptempo less defense oriented system” so, the firing was inevitable.
The curious thing about Malone’s dismissal is the timing. If the termination had happened in May, the philosophical differences reason and timing would have made more sense. Explaining a new coach was needed to install a new system would have been more easily accepted during the off-season. Frankly, it would have made more sense than 24 games into the season.
The next coach of the Kings will have a longer tenure than Malone as long as he works “the system” based on D’Alessandro’s data.
Who will that coach be? In his press session, D’Alessandro emphasized that the full weight of the organization was behind Tyrone Corbin and that he was excited to see what “Coach Ty” would do.
In the meantime, the rumor mill has George Karl being the next coach of the Kings. The names of Chis Mullin, Vinny Del Negro and even Don Nelson are also being tossed around. For now, Tyrone Corbin is the man in the “hot seat”.