Programming note: Bucks-Kings coverage starts tonight at 6:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California (territorial restrictions apply) and streaming live right here
In his first interview since being fired as head coach of the Kings last Sunday, Michael Malone shared his thoughts on his time in Sacramento, including his reaction to the decision by GM Pete D’Alessandro and owner Vivek Ranadive to relieve Malone of his duties.
“I was surprised given the progress the team was making but being around the NBA, I know the rigors of the business,” Malone told CSN California in an extensive phone conversation.
Ranadive and D’Alessandro cited “philosophical differences” as the reason for the dismissal.
Malone remains grateful and upbeat in demeanor.
“I want to thank Vivek for giving me my first head coaching opportunity in the NBA. I’m forever grateful and wish nothing but the best for the Kings.”
Malone’s firing raised eyebrows throughout the league after the Kings’ hot start of 9-6 versus the toughest schedule in the NBA.
The big three of DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay and Darren Collison thrived under Malone - each were in the process of putting up career best numbers.
The vibe in the locker room was good, and a culture change appeared to be taking hold -- one that Sacramento desperately needed.
Cousins especially seemed to forge a strong relationship with Malone.
“I feel as though DeMarcus and I have a special connection and bond,” said Malone. “We both want what’s best for the other man and the team.”
“We both hate to lose.”
However, after the 9-6 start, Cousins was knocked out of the lineup due to viral meningitis and last played in Houston on November 26.
Malone and Sacramento went 2-7 without the 6-foot eleven center -- who was averaging 23.5 points while leading the NBA in rebounding corralling 12.6 per game -- and the Kings overall record tapered off to 11-13.
Before the season started, Ranadive declared that this year was “about wins and losses.”
However, the second year owner declined to give a specific number of wins he expected but added, “This year has to be better than last year.”
Coming off a 28 win season in 2013-14, and despite the 11 wins at the quarter pole of the campaign which was consistent with Ranadive’s edict on winning being paramount -- the decision to remove Malone was made.
Malone still feels that the team made strides under his leadership.
“I was proud of how we as a team and as a staff put forth maximum effort and competed.”
Malone also praised one more key constituency.
“I also want to thank the fans of Sacramento. A coach cannot ask for more support and I want them to know how much I appreciated them.”
Malone’s overall record in Sacramento was 39-67.
Assistant coach Tyrone Corbin is Sacramento’s interim coach but D’Alessandro stopped short of committing to Corbin through the rest of the season raising speculation that the Kings may hire a new head coach.
The Kings host Milwaukee on game four of a five game home stand on Thursday at Sleep Train Arena.