It just took a little longer than he would have liked.
More than two weeks into his tenure as the Clippers’ interim coach, Hughes’ team finally made him a winner with a 99-89 victory over the Sacramento Kings at Staples Center.
It was Hughes’ first victory after an 0-5 start and ended the Clippers’ six-game losing streak.
Hughes coached the Clippers to a victory over New York in February 2008 while filling in for an ill Mike Dunleavy, but that triumph was credited to Dunleavy.
Eric Gordon deserved an assist Saturday, scoring 14 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter as the Clippers held off a late charge by the Kings. The shooting guard scored in a variety of ways, including a two-handed dunk, a leaner in the lane and a three-point basket.
Center Chris Kaman added 22 points and 16 rebounds for the Clippers, who withstood 21 points from Sacramento guard Tyreke Evans.
When it was over, Hughes calmly gave center DeAndre Jordan a high-five before shaking hands with a few other players and walking off the court.
Saturday could have marked another first for the Clippers — Drew Gooden’s debut with the team. But the newly acquired power forward who described himself as “a competitor” before the game told Hughes he wasn’t ready to play against the Kings.
Did Gooden say why?
“No, and I didn’t ask because I said I’d leave it up to him,” Hughes said. “If you come in and you’re ready to play, I’m going to play you a ton of minutes. But if you’re not ready to play that’s fine too. We’ll go after it Monday.”
The Clippers certainly could have used Gooden in the third quarter, when Hughes inserted seldom-used forward Brian Skinner because big men Jordan and Craig Smith were in foul trouble. But they persevered despite committing 24 turnovers, continuing a troubling trend in which they have struggled to take care of the ball. Gordon alone had seven.
Point guard Steve Blake looked far more comfortable in his second game with the Clippers than he did in his first, feeding Jordan for an alley-oop dunk and Gordon for an easy layin. Blake finished with 12 assists and three turnovers.
When he finally plays, Gooden will be expected to provide rebounding, an inside presence and a knack for making 17-foot jumpers. He averaged 8.9 points and 6.9 rebounds in 46 games this season for the Mavericks, including 11 starts.
But then came the trading deadline and, predictably, a new team for a player with an expiring contract.
Even by the standards of a player who has been with nine NBA teams in eight years, Gooden endured something of a whirlwind sequence last week. Four days after being traded from Dallas to Washington — and trying unsuccessfully to negotiate a buyout of his contract with the Wizards — Gooden found himself with the Clippers following another trade.
Gooden acknowledged seeking to leave woebegone Washington in a move that would have allowed him to return to the playoff-bound Mavericks, but he seemed to indicate he was willing to give the lottery-bound Clippers a shot.
“I don’t think their record speaks of what kind of talent is on this team,” Gooden said. “There’s always time you can turn things around and make it into a winning environment to finish out the season. I think we have good guys to do that.”
Baron Davis missed a second consecutive game because of a sore lower back. But Hughes said the point guard told him he was feeling better, and the Clippers hope he can return Monday against Charlotte. . . . Forward Travis Outlaw, acquired Tuesday as part of the trade that sent Marcus Camby to Portland, is expected to make his Clippers debut the same night.