The big story of the week so far comes from Sacramento, where the Kings chose to fire coach Michael Malone, despite the fact that he led the team to a 9-5 record before losing DeMarcus Cousins and going 2-8 (for a total record of 11-13). While 11-13 isn’t great shakes, it is the best the Kings have played since 2007-08 and Malone had apparently connected with Cousins, the most important player on the roster. So, this seemed like a strange time to let Malone go.
It’s hard to feel too bad for coaches. They are hired to be fired and are paid quite well for the stress and job instability (Malone will make $9.4 million in guaranteed money on this deal). Still, basic fairness dictates the Kings make a decision that can be justified on some level. Putting aside fairness to Malone, if you are a Kings fans, management’s decision creates an opportunity to infer the competency of the new regime. Let’s review the Kings’ stated reasons for canning Malone and see if they pass the straight face test:
–Malone was fired by prior management and was not the choice of current team of GM Peter D’Alessandro and consultant Chris Mullin.
This is a fair point. D’Alessandro should want his own man, though it is not clear why he would go into the season with Malone if he if was uncomfortable with Malone. It is possible that Malone did something specifically to annoy them recently. There are some undeveloped reports that Malone “alienated” management but absent a compelling incident, the timing is too strange to be a viable excuse.
-Malone wasn’t winning enough
That is just silly and not a reasonable basis to fire Malone. This team, as currently constructed, is a lottery squad in the west.
–Malone’s style is defensive, slow and boring and they wanted something else.
D’Alessandro specifically said that he wanted a more “compelling” style, namely something similar to the fun Chris Webber Kings of the early 2000s. I understand this point too but the timing, again, is off. In that same vein, were the Kings really that plodding? They played at a slightly above-average pace for Malone last year (14th in NBA) and were slightly below this season (17th). As to the point that Malone was defensive-centric, the Kings were actually much better offensively (14th) than they were defensively (21st) this year.
Also, common sense doesn’t totally support this assertion that the Kings were slow offensively. Rudy Gay and Darren Collison are having their best offensive numbers. Moreover, the player they post up the most is Cousins, who is best in that role anyway. Why shake things up? No new fast paced offensive system is coming in now. Tyrone Corbin has paid lip service to this, though his Utah teams never played as fast as this Kings team currently does. Having Corbin doesn’t seem like an upgrade at coach, either in style of play or in wins.
Finally, it is wonderful to want to play like you have Chris Webber, Mike Bibby, and Peja Stojakovic but they don’t have those players. No owner wants to put forth a boring product but winning is usually more important than style anyway. All this being said, if the Kings do hire a good coach (George Karl?) all will be forgotten. The book is still open on whether the Kings know what they are doing but ledger is not great so far.