The hot seat has never been so hot.
George Karl’s tenure with the Sacramento Kings is once again on the brink. After a 1-6 stretch, the team is quickly falling out of playoff contention and bad losses are becoming the norm. The tension is building and a resolution is likely on the horizon.
Whether the Kings make a decision on Karl’s fate today or later this week when the All-Star break hits or at season’s end, the clock is ticking for the fifth winningest coach in NBA history.
Karl is with the team in Boston preparing for tomorrow’s game against the Boston Celtics. CSN California has confirmation that he is at practice coaching the team.
Narratives are coming as to how we got to where we are in this situation. You will hear that Karl isn’t Vlade Divac’ guy. Someone is going to run with the angle that DeMarcus Cousins is nothing but a coach killer. You might even read that the rigors of coaching an 82-game season are just too much for Karl.
Throw most of that out the window. No, Divac didn’t hire Karl, but he has an incredible amount of respect for his legacy. Divac walked into the Kings situation knowing he had a future Hall of Fame coach on his bench and he has provided plenty of players that fit Karl’s system.
If Divac pulls the trigger, it will be because Karl is not the right answer for today and tomorrow and the next two years. It’s a performance league and 21-29 isn’t the performance that he or anyone else associated with what the team expected.
[RELATED: Cousins points to 'bigger issue' for falling Kings]
Cousins has developed a reputation as a coach killer. But is he really? He and Paul Westphal will likely never speak again, that much we can guarantee. But Keith Smart was let go because a new ownership group came in. Michael Malone was Cousins’ guy and the entire team quit on Tyrone Corbin, not just the Kings’ center.
The All-Star big may not love Karl, but as he’s said many times, you don’t have to be friends with your head coach to win games. Like everyone else on the roster, Cousins has waited for the “process” to play out. They have given Karl’s experimental defensive scheme every opportunity to work and they have put on their track shoes trying to please their coach’s want for pace.
Cousins is an easy target, but any angst between he and Karl began with the coach telling the media that no player was untradeable. They have had blowups, but there is no questioning the big man’s effort or his want to to win.
Cousins put this team on his back in the month of January. There was no quit in him as he averaged 31.5 points, 12.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. If it wasn’t for the four-game losing streak to end the month, he would have been the Western Conference Player of the Month.
As for Karl’s health, the NBA is a grind. I’m sure he has good days and bad days. He seems to thrive following wins, but losses haven’t been easy. He’s made it through 50 games without a sniff of a health scare. The early season talk that Chad Iske was running the team has quieted substantially.
So why is Karl on the hot seat? The Kings are losing time and time again to sub-par teams and the trend is all too familiar in each.
The players constantly leave 3-point shooters open on the perimeter. They take away their opponent’s first or second option at the expense of allowing players like Bojan Bogdanovic or E’Twaun Moore to score career-highs. They can’t even protect their home court, where they are just 13-13 on the season.
It really boils down to whether Divac and the players believe they can win with Karl as their coach. Do they believe his style of play, which features a high octane run-and-gun offense with a switching gambling defense, can get them to the next level?
The results are not good. The trends are not good. And the fact that Corliss Williamson, by all reports is the likely choice to take over the team if Karl is let go, and not associate head coach Chad Iske, speaks volumes.
Iske is a very bright young coach with a tremendous future, but if he isn’t Karl’s replacement in Sacramento, it’s because the Kings brass has seen enough of this style of play.
The Kings rank last in the NBA in points allowed at 108.5 points per game. Their defensive rating is 21st in the league. They give up the most 3-point attempts and 3-point makes and their 16.5 turnovers per game rank 27th in the league.
Playing a knock down drag out game isn’t necessarily the answer. But there are nights where it doesn’t matter how good the Kings are offensively, they can’t keep up.
This is a constantly evolving situation, but George Karl’s run in Sacramento is tenuous at best.