by Charlie O. Mallonee
SACRAMENTO–In the worst kept personnel move ever, the Sacramento Kings have fired head coach and future Hall of Famer George Karl. Multiple media sources – including this one – had been reporting that Karl would be dismissed since Wednesday morning.
The termination comes as no surprise to anyone who has been following the Kings for the past 18 months. DeMarcus Cousins did not want the team to hire Karl in the first place. Karl was almost fired over the summer for trying initiate a trade for Cousins, and vice president and general manager Vlade Divac wanted to terminate Karl in February when the team was in midst of turmoil. This was a relationship that was doomed from the very beginning.
“After evaluating the team’s performance this season, I determined it was necessary to move forward with a new voice from the head coaching position,” said Divac. “I have a great deal of respect and admiration for George and his accomplishments throughout his nearly 30 years in the NBA. On behalf of everyone in the Kings organization, I thank him for the contributions made during his time in Sacramento and wish him good fortune in the future.”
This will be the first time the Vivek Ranadive ownership group has a head of basketball operations in place before hiring a head coach. Michael Malone and George Karl were hired before the general manager was in place and the results have been disastrous and resulted in both coaches being fired.
There have been reports that the minority owners have been upset over the handling of the hiring and firing coaches by Ranadive. For instance, Karl walks away with a reported $6.5-million due him for the remainder of his contract. Investors hate to pay “dead money” to anyone knowing they will have to pay out big dollars to the new coach that takes Karl’s place.
The assumption is that Divac will have heavy input into the hiring of the next coach. Not that Ranadive will be left out of process but he will probably allow the experts to do their job in order to avoid another hiring fiasco.
The coaching merry-go-round has become a joke in the national press that covers the NBA. Ryen Rusillo of ESPN Radio spent almost five minutes decrying the coaching situation in Sacramento as ridiculous during his nationwide show on Wednesday. That is just one example of ridicule that is being flung at the Kings organization’s inability to hire and retain a head coach.
Hiring the right coach for this situation is critical. First, the coach must be able to adapt to the direction of the team as set by Divac who is said to want a more defensive approach on the floor. Secondly, the new head man (or woman) must be able to adapt to the available personnel. Finally, DeMarcus Cousins must buy in on whoever the Kings want to hire. That is not a good thing for management but they have empowered Cousins and will have to obtain his cooperation to make it work for the next coach.
Some of the names that are being floated are coaches with experience. Ex-Houston coach Kevin McHale, ex-Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek, former Bulls and Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro, ex-Cleveland coach David Blatt, former Warriors head man Mark Jackson and Charlotte assistant coach Patrick Ewing have been mentioned as possible candidates for the job. The search will also include top assistant coaches from around the league who are looking for their first job as a head coach.
The names of Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks have come up but both are expected to take higher profile jobs.
The interview process is expected to take some time because the Kings cannot afford to make another major hiring mistake as they move into the new arena.