After a lengthy and somewhat circuitous courtship, George Karl and the Kings are nearing an agreement for Karl to take over the team’s head coaching duties from Tyrone Corbin, CSNBayArea.com has learned.
First reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the contract terms for the Karl hiring in Sacramento are estimated to be a four-year deal between $4 million and $5 million per year.
Karl is expected to take over duties after the All-Star break, according to multiple reports. Tyrone Corbin’s future with the team is uncertain.
As the sixth winningest coach in NBA history, Karl has a penchant for reclamation projects and takes over the Kings (18-32) after Corbin went 7-19 as Sacramento’s head coach.
According to multiple reports, one of the barriers to getting the deal done sooner was resistance from Kings All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins’ representation -- something that Cousins has since denied on Twitter.
In the second year of Vivek Ranadive’s ownership and Pete D’Alessandro’s tenure as GM, Karl is being charged with bringing the Kings back to prominence. Sacramento hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2006.
With a new downtown arena under construction scheduled to open in the Fall of 2016, the Kings are operating with urgency to get the things moving in a clear direction.
Ranadive said during training camp that this season, in contrast to last season, was “about wins and losses.” However, when asked by CSN Bay Area the specific number of wins or a range, Ranadive responded, “It has to be better than last season.”
The Kings won 28 games last year.
With low expectations entering this campaign, Sacramento overachieved early, starting the season at 5-1 and then 9-6 when Cousins went out with viral meningitis.
Nine games into Cousins’ absence from the lineup and with a record of 11-13, the decision was made to fire Malone. Corbin, an assistant on Malone’s staff, took over.
Karl would become the Kings’ third coach this season, and the fourth coach in the four-and-a-half years that Cousins has donned a Sacramento uniform.
Additionally, Karl would become the 16th Kings head coach in the 30-year Sacramento era, and the eighth coach in the past nine years since the team’s most successful coach in California -- Rick Adelman (1999-2006).
Sacramento represents the third time in Karl’s career that he has taken over a team in the middle of a season.
In the 1991-92 season, he lead the Seattle Sonics to a record of 27-15 after taking over, and the Sonics finished the regular season at 47-35 before advancing to the Western Conference Semi-Finals (Karl took over for KC Jones 18-18 and Bob Kloppenburg 2-2).
Karl eventually led Seattle to the NBA Finals in 1996 before the Sonics fell to in six games to the Bulls.
In 2004-05 campaign, Karl once again turned a team around in mid season, as the Denver Nuggets went 32-8 under his tutelage before making it to the playoffs and exiting in the first round (Bzdelik 13-15, Michael Cooper 4-10, Karl 32-8).
Karl was named the NBA Coach of the Year in his final season in Denver in 2012-13 after the Nuggets finished 57-25 and lost in the first round of the playoffs.
Notwithstanding the success and accolades including nine consecutive playoff appearances at the helm of the Nuggets, Karl was fired after the 2013 season and he’s been an NBA analyst over the last year-and-a-half.
D’Alessandro was part of Denver’s front office during Karl’s tenure -- specifically from 2010-2013 before being hired as the Kings GM in June of 2013.
In 25 years as a head coach, Karl has only missed the playoffs in three seasons and is the sixth winningest coach in NBA history, with an overall record of 1131-756 and a winning percentage of .599.
The 63-year-old two-time cancer survivor has coached in Cleveland, Golden State, Milwaukee, Denver and also served as an NBA All-Star head coach on four occasions.
Karl played for the late legendary Dean Smith at the University of North Carolina before playing three seasons in the ABA and two in the NBA as a guard for the San Antonio Spurs.
Karl’s offensive philosophy is a fit with the Kings ownership and management, who want to play a more uptempo style – something that Malone and Kings management apparently couldn’t agree on and resulted in “philosophical differences” -- which led to Malone’s firing.
The Kings were 39-67 under Malone’s brief tenure of less than two seasons.
Karl’s challenge is to not only implement the offensive changes but to solidify a strong relationship with DeMarcus Cousins, who was building a strong relationship with Malone before his firing on December 14.
The previous discussions with Karl were lengthy, and in December when Malone was jettisoned Karl said on Sirius XM NBA Radio regarding the Kings opening, “If they’re interested in me, I’m interested in them.”
Karl, an inveterate member of the coaching fraternity, also invoked a “mourning period” in respect for Malone at the time of the firing, however no one expected the negotiations to take as long as they have.
The Kings visit the Bulls in Chicago on Tuesday and the Bucks in Milwaukee on Wednesday before the All-Star break.