After a season that saw them fire two different former Golden State Warriors assistants as head coach, the Sacramento Kings have decided to go back to the well, with a coaching search that’ll include two current members of Steve Kerr’s staff.
Sources: Kings search is expected to wide-ranging, including candidates with history of turning lottery teams into playoff teams. Among those expected to be considered: Kenny Atkinson, Steve Clifford, Mark Jackson, Mike Brown, Bucks assistants Charles Lee and Darvin Ham, more. https://t.co/BnfYC0klyr— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) April 11, 2022
The Kings announced they would not be bringing back interim head coach Alvin Gentry, who spent the 2014-15 season as Steve Kerr’s associate head coach in Oakland. Gentry had formerly coached the Detroit Pistons, LA Clippers, and Phoenix Suns, and left the Warriors after a season to take the top job with the New Orleans Pelicans. He got the interim job in Sacramento because the Kings fired another former Kerr assistant, Luke Walton, after the team began the season 6-11. Gentry finished the season 24-41, and the Kings missed the playoffs for the 16th straight season, an NBA record. You’re out of the record books, 1977-92 LA Clippers!
Walton went 31-41 in both his first two seasons at the helm of the Kings, which was considered a disappointment, despite Walton logging the second-best winning percentage of any coach in Sacramento Kings history (.422). That’s better than former Warriors assistant Garry St. Jean’s .403 over five seasons, or former Warriors head coach Eric Musselman (.402 in his one season), or former Warriors head coach George Karl (.393), former Warriors assistant Gentry (.369), former Warriors assistant Michael “Don’t Call Me Mike” Malone (.368), or former assistant and one-year Warriors head coach, Keith Smart (.340). Are you noticing a pattern?
The Kings simply love hiring old Warriors coaches, which did pay off for them once, when they hired Rick Adelman a year after the Warriors cut him loose. For P.J. Carlesimo, whoops! Adelman is still the only Sacramento coach to have a winning record for a single season, which he did for all eight years he coached the Kings, making the playoffs every single year. The Kings did made the playoffs with a losing record in 1986 under Phil Johnson, and in 1996 under Saint. Both coaches were fired in the middle of the next season. After the Kings, Adelman went to the Houston Rockets, where he again had a winning record all four years, with two playoff appearances, before leading the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 40-42 record in his final season coaching, which is like winning 60 games by T-Wolves standards.
Since these moves worked out so well in the past, it’s no surprise that Kings owner Vivek Ranadive has three more coaches with Warriors ties on his wish list. There’s Mike Brown, who took the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals in 2007, and won Coach of the Year in 2009. Brown has been with the Warriors since the 2016-17 season, when he took over for an ailing Steve Kerr and led the team to a 12-0 record as acting head coach. He also coached the Los Angeles Lakers, where he was fired five games into his second season and replaced by Mike D’Antoni. Brown ended his Lakers coaching career with a better record than MDA, Frank Vogel, and even Jerry West. This season, he’s been running the Warriors defense, which finished the year ranked first in defensive rating, despite missing Draymond Green for half the season.
Kenny Atkinson has had an injury-riddled first season on the Warriors bench, after an early leg injury kept him off the bench, and then subsequently entered the health and safety protocols. He got raves as Brooklyn Nets head coach from 2016-20, because of his ability to stay competitive despite a roster decimated by trading away multiple first-round picks and dumping veterans. He was let go just before the end of the 2019-20 season, somewhat of a blessing since the season shut down a week later.
Of course, the most intriguing Kings head coach candidate is the Warriors’ old head coach Mark Jackson, who hasn’t had a coaching job since the Warriors fired him after the 2013-14 season. Jax made the playoffs in two of his three years on the team, improving every year and winning a playoff series. He also anointed Steph Curry’s ankle with magic oil, called the FBI because a stripper was extorting money from him, fired assistant coaches, made disparaging comments about gay marriage, and worst of all, made Festus Ezeli cry. The world would simply be more interesting with Jackson back on the sidelines, especially since it means he’d be out of the broadcast booth and his dysfunctional relationship with Jeff Van Gundy.
Could Mark Jackson move his ministry to the state capital? Would he call De’Aaron Fox and Davion Mitchell the worst-shooting backcourt in NBA history? Could this mean the Kings would actually play on national television occasionally, so Mike Breen could hang out with his buddy Mark? And would California consider replacing its “Three Strikes And You’re Out” law to a program of “Hand Down, Man Incarcerated”?
All we know is that the Kings will never tire of hiring old Warriors coaches. Which is why it’s a surprise that Jarron Collins is nowhere to be found on this list. Or Keith Smart’s old assistant Lloyd Pierce. Or his other assistant, David Fizdale. Or Donnie Nelson, who was his father’s lead assistant, and currently needs a job. Or P.J. Carlesimo’s old assistant and “Winning Time” character Paul Westhead. He’s 83, but the young guys who have HBO Max will love him!
Whoever it turns out to be, we have full confidence that the coach chosen will lead the Kings to however many wins it takes to barely miss the play-in game. It’s the Kings Way.