George Karl never had a lot of luck in the Bay Area. He got the Golden State Warriors to one playoff and then got swamped by the HMS Nellie. Then he doubled down and went to Sacramento and was subsumed by Hurricane Vivek. And Typhoon Boogie. And Tsunami Vlade.
You know. The full Sactown Kings experience.
Now he is fired, probably mercifully, and will get the rest of his $6.5 million, which was his backup plan to actually succeeding in curing the Kings of all the things that ailed them.
Which, King-ly enough, eventually included him.
Karl was a poor fit from the start, on a team of bad fits. The entire operation is a jigsaw puzzle in which none of the pieces would fit if you used a hammer on them, and while this is not news, the fact that Rick Adelman was the only coach ever to make this team work in this town (eight years over more than 30) tells you how much “funk” is in this particular dysfunction.
And here’s the next fun thing – Karl’s departure will have no more beneficial effect than his arrival did, because the next guy will face the same twisted structure and mutant management style that provides both the impermanence of command and the permanence of failure.
And who can’t go 33-49 with that as a constant companion?
Herein lies the amusement of Karl’s firing. Doomed from the start, it is also a harbinger of continued doom – barring some massive series of epiphanies and vision adjustments, starting in the biggest office and trickling down from there.
There are a few teams in the NBA who suffer from the same odd visions (and lack thereof). Philadelphia just nuked its strategy of winning by losing and did so in such a clumsy way that nobody is still sure whether the owners liked the strategy or not.
Brooklyn tried to spend to glory with the result being a full cratering and an owner looking to offload the entire mess.
New York, the now-Kobe-less Lakers, Denver, Phoenix, Washington . . . there are a number of teams that are hot messes and are likely to stay that way in the short (read: five years or less) term.
The problem in Sacramento is that it’s been a lot longer, and it is now almost ingrained. The new arena is a bandage on a sucking chest wound, solving one problem for one year, two at the outside.
But after that, Vivek Ranadive and his semi-mutinous investors, and general manager Vlade Divac and whatever management support Divac finally gathers and provides daily operational control to, and the players who have been beaten down time and again by a franchise they know on Day One will be laughed at on Day Two – they all have to figure out what they want to be, why being a King should matter to them, and then get the one thing the Kings have never seemed to have in any of their cities.
As in “Stephen Curry just fell to us at seven” level luck.
It’s how the Warriors were saved, after all, the one bit of good fortune combined with purpose and research that nobody can actually have a staff meeting to create. And while Currys do not appear shrink-wrapped and bulk-packaged at Costco, the Kings are that dire an operation that not much short of a generational player can give them the sense that the planets have stopped aligning against them, and that they finally have allies both on the temporal and ethereal planes.
In the meantime, they can cut Karl one last big check, they can exchange apologies for wasting each other’s time, and they can move on to the next thing they’ll have to cut a check to eradicate.