Kings fire head coach Malone despite promising start
Sacramento Kings general manager Pete D'Alessandro stepped to the microphone and talked about how a franchise that was in disarray a little more than 18 months ago when owner Vivek Ranadive bought the team has been stabilized with new leadership, a change in culture and the start of a new arena.
D'Alessandro then explained why the coach who was a part of that whole process had been fired.
The Kings fired Michael Malone only 24 games into his second season with the team over philosophical differences over the team's style of play.
"It wasn't about wins and losses," D'Alessandro said Monday. "I don't really care what our record was. It's really about who we want to be, what we want our identity to be as a team."
D'Alessandro called Malone a "great defensive coach" and said this was the right time to make a change to bring in a coach who can take the team to the next level.
He said he wants the Kings to play a more free-wheeling offense, which was so successful for the franchise in the early 2000s.
"Philosophically we needed to make a decision," D'Alessandro said. "What are we going to do, how are we going to play."
Yahoo Sports!/FOX Sports 1 NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski reported Ranadive is seriously considering Chris Mullin as a replacement candidate.
Malone went 39-67 after being hired in June 2013 by Ranadive. Malone was hired before D'Alessandro in what was considered an unusual order of events. D'Alessandro said his decision to come to Sacramento was an endorsement of Malone but now he will get the opportunity to hire his own coach.
The Kings went 28-54 in Malone's first season and missed the playoffs for an eighth straight year. This season got off to a better start with the team winning nine of its first 14 games.
But the Kings have fallen into a tailspin after star center DeMarcus Cousins was sidelined with viral meningitis. Sacramento has lost seven of nine games without Cousins and is tied for 10th in the Western Conference with an 11-13 record.
"I would be lying if I said I didn't feel that it was partially my fault," Cousins said. "In reality it isn't, but me personally I feel like it is. Me being out, us losing some games. I feel like I played a part in it."
Cousins practiced Monday and is still day to day. The team will play its first game under interim coach Tyrone Corbin on Tuesday night at home against Oklahoma City.
One of Malone's biggest successes was the way he got the most out of Cousins, an ultra-talented big man whose emotions often got the best of him before Malone's arrival last year.
Cousins said he was surprised when he found out the news late Sunday night on Twitter.
"Who wasn't? I think this surprised everybody," he said. "Usually with situations like this, you kind of know it's about to happen. This just happened."
D'Alessandro will not commit to Corbin lasting the rest of the season, saying only that he will have the full support of the organization. Corbin went 112-146 in three-plus seasons as coach of the Utah Jazz and was not offered a contract after last season.
Corbin began to implement change at his first practice Monday.
"It's difficult for players to change mid-stride," Corbin said. "You have to not confuse them and get them thinking. Where we have ideas about changes and things, we have to gradually get those changes so they're not thinking too much out there on the floor."
The firing is the first major setback in Ranadive's tenure. He was welcomed as a savior when he bought the team from the Maloof family in 2013 and prevented the team from moving to Seattle.
The Kings have already broken ground on a $477 million arena that is expected to open downtown for the 2016-17 season. But he has been unable so far to reverse the losing trend that followed a stretch of eight straight playoff berths.
"The message is we're not done," D'Alessandro said. "We're going to keep doing everything there is. We're going to keep making tough decisions. That's what we're here for."
D'Alessandro said assistant coach Chris Jent mutually agreed with the team to also step down.