In what may be the biggest surprise of the young NBA season, the Sacramento Kings have fired coach Mike Malone. Despite a strong start to the season, the team had lost eight of their last ten, though a chunk of those games can be attributed to the illness of their superstar DeMarcus Cousins.
The initial reports came from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. According to Wojnarowski, Malone was in jeopardy already, but the team’s quick start saved his job. Once they fell off that pace, ownership was ready to pull the trigger and pull it fast. Still, this is a shocking move, considering how much better the team has played than they did last year.
I had them pegged for 27 wins in my season preview, which is actually one game worse than their total last year. It seems like that number is going to be low, considering they’re sitting at 11-13 right now. Still, if they were able to maintain that winning percentage at all and creep above 35 wins, that would be a huge improvement.
The problem here was that ownership actually thinks they have a team that can win in Sacramento. It may seem a bit ridiculous to the rest of the league, especially considering they dumped one of their top players since he didn’t get along with Cousins.1 Then again, this is an owner who has pitched a 4 on 5 defense, so I suppose under those circumstances no one’s job is safe, and Malone learned that the hard way.
GM Pete D'Alessandro hadn't hired Malone, and had never been strong bond between them. Still, ownership's expectations are unrealistic.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) December 15, 2014
There’s also word that the style of coaching Malone employed wasn’t supported by ownership, or by Chris Mullen, who is a consultant for the team. That comes from Sam Amick of USA Today.
Assistant Ty Corbin takes over. Kings GM Pete D'Alessandro, consultant Chris Mullin bristled over style at times. Malone hired before both
— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) December 15, 2014
Assistant Ty Corbin, formerly of the Utah Jazz, is going to take over until a full-time replacement can be found. The attention now turns to who that replacement will be. Two names are being thrown about by sources: George Karl and Vinny Del Negro. Essentially, it seems like Del Negro would be the guy if Karl isn’t willing to come out of retirement to coach. GM Pete D’Alessandro worked with Karl in Denver, and according to most reports, the two had a great relationship. Del Negro did a solid job with the Bulls and Clippers when he was with those teams, but he isn’t quite the highest profile coaching candidate at this point in his career.
Another interesting possibility is Mark Jackson. Jackson may not have gotten along with members of the Warriors front office, but he still got that team to the playoffs in back to back years. Plus, it’s been pointed out that Jackson and Mullin are close.
Also important to note: Chris Mullin and Mark Jackson are tight. Both Brooklyn natives and St. John's legends
— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) December 15, 2014
There’s also the possibility that the team sticks with Corbin. Corbin is willing to play the high-speed office that management wants for this team, and while things ended rather terribly in Utah, he has an almost-.500 career winning percentage, which is an accomplishment in the West.
With how surprising this firing is, it’s important to remember that it was absolutely shocking to outsiders when Jackson was fired by the Warriors. That team is now 21-2. And success, and especially only slight success, can be easily overlooked when there’s a rift in relationships. But really, when jobs are lost because players got sick, it can really only come down to one solution:
I've said it before, Malone should've stressed hand-washing
— netw3rk (@netw3rk) December 15, 2014
Isaiah Thomas’ dribbling is a discussion for another day ↩