You would have to go all the way back to the 1974-75 season to find the last time the Sacramento Kings had three head coaches in a single season (Bob Cousy, Draff Young, Phil Johnson), and they weren’t even located in Sacramento at the time. They were known as the Kansas City-Omaha Kings back then.
Fast-forward to 2015 and nothing has really changed, but Sacramento’s current coaching carousel has stopped at George Karl for the time being.
His coaching resume speaks for itself: 1139-767 record (sixth in wins), 22 postseason appearances, an NBA Finals appearance (Seattle SuperSonics), an NBA Coach of the Year award (2013) and four-time NBA All-Star Game head coach.
By bringing in Karl, Sacramento is taking steps in the right direction to return to the postseason, something that hasn’t been done since the 2005-06 season. But how has he fared in limited action so far?
Through 19 games, Karl has amassed an 8-11 record, defeating the teams they should defeat and losing to teams they should lose to, for the most part at least. The Kings do have quality wins (wins against teams over .500) against Memphis, Washington and Phoenix, and they’re currently on a four-game winning streak.
The players seemed to be adjusting well to Karl, as they’ve increased their offensive production to 104 points per game, fifth-highest in the league since Karl’s arrival in Sacramento. It’s always good to be mentioned in the same company with other offensive juggernauts such as Oklahoma City and Golden State.
What’s most impressive about Karl’s current tenure in Sacramento is that he’s winning games without starting point guard Darren Collison. The point guard suffered a hip flexor on February 6 and is out for the remainder of the season.
Of course, when we mention the Sacramento Kings, there’s some form of dysfunction that follows. In recent memory, even if the Kings were an afterthought as the end of the season neared, they’d somehow manage to make headlines for a variety of reasons.
Karl has managed to do the opposite, with some help from other news around the league, a.k.a the craziest trade deadline in NBA history.
Once Karl was handed the reins to the Sacramento roster, he pushed for the acquisition of Andre Miller, a former player under Karl in Denver, to bring a mentor/leadership role into a somewhat hectic locker room.
However, it was the move he didn’t make that really made all the noise. Rumors circulated about DeMarcus Cousins quietly being placed on the trade block.
We all know the type of player Cousins is and what he brings to the table. A freak-of-nature athlete who can do it all as a 7-footer. After a successful stint with Team USA in the FIBA World Cup, Cousins has continued to elevate his game to superstar status.
The mere rumor of placing Cousins on the block sent a message to the Kings team, and that message was that Karl is in charge. Whether Cousins stays put in Sacramento is yet to be seen, as many teams will most likely reach out to Sacramento to gauge some kind of interest.
Karl is just getting started with the rebuilding process in Sacramento. He has certainly shown more promise than Tyrone Corbin, albeit in a limited sample size.
Corbin never got anything going in Sacramento, going 7-21 after replacing Mike Malone. Under Corbin, Sacramento was a horrendous defensive team, surrendering a league-worst 106.7 points per game on 46.3 percent shooting. Although the team hasn’t done much better defensively under Karl, the increase in offensive productivity has helped mask some of those issues.
Malone arguably had the best success out of these coaches, starting the season 8-5 before Cousins was sidelined due to viral meningitis. After a 2-8 stretch, Malone was unceremoniously fired, much to the dismay of Cousins.
Karl brings a new hope to Sacramento, something that owner Vivek Ranadive apparently didn’t see in Malone or Corbin.
By adding onto the already hectic circus in Sacramento, Karl has been tasked with using this 29-game stretch as a “pre-training camp” to evaluate the roster. Karl talked about this recently, per Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee:
“We’re going to try to put a great roster together. There will be some pieces that are held over from this year’s lineup, and there will probably be some new ones.”
Cousins seems to be on board, which has to be a good sign moving forward:
“We took a lot of hits during the season, so this can be a positive point for us during the season. Continue to get better and be a training camp for next season. We’re just starting early.”
Six players are set to become free agents next year, and with the year winding down, their intentions will surface sooner or later. Omri Casspi has already gone on the record saying he would like to re-sign with Sacramento, and Miller has expressed a similar sentiment.
The locker room seems to be behind Karl and is ready to change the perception that the Kings are a circus. As long as Karl has the support of his players and the front office, Sacramento should be headed for greener pastures.
The question is: Will Karl stick around or be just another head coach in Sacramento’s coaching carousel?