The Sacramento Kings are off to a 1-7 start to the season, and their slow start may cost head coach George Karl his job.
The Kings, who have lost six in a row, were expected to contend for the Western Conference’s final spot this season after adding Rajon Rondo, Caron Butler, and Kostas Koufos this summer along with veterans DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, and Ben McLemore. However, Cousins (Achilles Tendon Strain) has missed four games and Sacramento is giving up 110.4 points a game (No. 29 in the NBA) as well as allowing opponents to shoot a league-high 49.3 percent from the floor. The Kings are off to their worst start since 1991.
Sacramento played well in its last loss to San Antonio for three quarters before falling apart in the fourth. The Kings were outscored 34-19 in the final stanza and went on to lose the game 106-88, but it was after the game when things got a little hairy. Cousins, who put up 22 points and 12 rebounds, went on a verbal tirade in the locker room, cursing out Karl with a barrage of obscenities and calling for a team meeting, according to Jason McIntyre of the Big Lead.
McIntyre reported that Cousins did feel some remorse after the tirade, asking a couple of teammates if he came down too hard on the coach. They calmly told him, “You can’t scream and curse like that at your coach in front of everyone.”
The Sacramento Bee reported that the Kings did indeed hold a meeting between players, coaches, and the front office. There were reportedly several subjects brought up ranging from players “not buying” into Karl’s system, players not giving total effort as well their attitudes, and the team’s defensive problems. In addition, Kings Vice President of Basketball Operations/General Manager Vlade Divac and Assistant General Manager Mike Bratz asked players whether Karl should be fired or not?
“Guys and the coaching staff and the front office talked about how comfortable players are with plays, coaches with the attitudes and stuff like that,” Divac said. “When you have a problem in the family, you address it, you talk about it. I was very pleased how we talked about it openly.”
So, will Karl be the first coach to get the ax this season?
It seems like Karl or Memphis Grizzlies boss Dave Joerger are currently the most likely candidates to get fired first. The Grizzlies are really struggling at 3-6 and have been non-competitive in quite a few of their losses.
Divac told Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports that he still believes in Karl and his job is safe.
Divac added that the blame for Cousins’ tirade isn’t on Karl, but he also told Karl that he didn’t have the authority to suspend the center for two games like he wanted to. Divac wouldn’t say if Cousins would be disciplined.
Sam Amick of USA Today doesn’t believe that Karl has much leeway as Divac has let on, writing that Karl could lose his job as soon as this week. If the Kings somehow overcomes the slow start and Karl lasts the entire season, Amick believes that Karl could be fired during the summer.
Karl is just nine months on the job, and his contract doesn’t officially end until the 2018 season. He was given $15 million to come to Sacramento with $11.5 million being guaranteed. Karl is just 12-26 at helm of the Kings.
Update: Divac told Lisa Gonzales of KCRA-TV in Sacramento on November 12, that Karl will remain as coach of team through the end of the season. Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders wrote it is more likely that the Kings will fire Karl before Cousins is traded though it is also possible both will be gone during the offseason.
Sacramento is currently playing the Detroit Pistons, leading 36-23 after one quarter of play.
After tonight, the Kings have two more games at home before embarking on five game Eastern Conference road trip that will take them to the Southeast portion of the States plus Milwaukee.
[photo via Sacramento Kings Twitter]