The Sacramento Kings’ playoff drought has reached ten straight seasons, the second longest active streak behind the Minnesota Timberwolves.
And of course, the Kings are once again looking for a new head coach. Not much has changed, has it? After firing George Karl, the fifth most winningest coach in NBA history, Sacramento has begun their first formal coaching search since 2009.
We all know that Karl and DeMarcus Cousins had an extremely rocky relationship and many might feel Cousins played a role in Karl’s firing. Kings management will try to convince every candidate they speak to that Cousins is not the one in charge.
And even though Cousins is the franchise player, the Kings should not be hiring a coach based solely on Cousins. They need to hire a coach with the same long-term vision as Vlade Divac. Building a winning culture is first and foremost.
Whoever gets hired needs to have full support from management and if that’s trading away the best center in the game, than let it roll. We know Cousins is the best center in the league, which means he has high trade value.
The Boston Celtics have been rumored around Cousins for a long time now, and they have a plethora of draft picks. Boston has two first round draft picks in the upcoming draft. With a draft class of talented players that should be on the Kings’ radar, Sacramento might be able to get a haul that is worth sending Cousins off somewhere else.
Ultimately, it does not matter who is leading the Kings to the playoffs. The objective is to make the playoffs.
If the Kings can find a coach who can get on the same page as Cousins, that would be a dream scenario. But again, don’t hire a coach to please your best player. The list has shortened for Sacramento, as the Wizards and Timberwolves recently hired Scott Brooks and Tom Thibodeau respectively.
But there are still two standouts remaining in my opinion. While the Kings have been rumored around coaches such as Sam Mitchell, Mike Woodson, and Vinny Del Negro, these names are just part of the process. Ettore Messina and Mark Jackson are the two guys the Kings should be looking at the most.
Messina has won four championships in the Euroleague and is currently an assistant coach under Gregg Popovich. Not only is that a solid track record as a coach, but anyone who is a disciple under Popovich is someone to take a look at. Messina was named coach of the year in the Euroleague twice, in 2006 and 2008.
Mike Budenholzer was a former assistant under Popovich and he has led the Hawks to consecutive winning seasons since he took over. In his first season, Budenholzer led the Hawks to 60 wins and a number one seed and currently Atlanta holds a 2-1 lead over the Celtics in the first round of playoffs. I’m not saying it will go as smooth for Messina but it’s a note well worth taking.
Another option would obviously be ESPN analyst and former Warriors head coach Mark Jackson. The Kings lack a defensive presence and Jackson preaches defense. The Warriors were ranked 26th in defensive efficiency a year prior to Jackson’s hire.
Under Jackson’s reign, the Warriors made the playoffs in the 2012-13 season for the first time since the 2006-07 season. The Warriors continued to get better and ranked fourth in the league in defensive efficiency in the 2013-14 season. Unfortunately, Jackson was let go after the Warriors were bounced out of the first round of the playoffs, courtesy of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Jackson is a very motivating figure and turned the Warriors around. The Kings are stuck in a long playoff-less rut and maybe the ESPN analyst can light a fire under the players’ belts. Personally, Jackson seems to be the best choice. Jackson seems to be the man who could put Cousins in check and would not mind letting him go if need be.
The Kings offense is not the issue as the team averaged 106.6 points per game last season. However, the Kings ranked dead last in opponent’s points per game, giving up 109.1 points.
There are definitely more coaching options and my third best choice would be Luke Walton who led the Warriors to a 39-4 record while Steve Kerr was sidelined. Nonetheless, Walton’s record is completely inflated. The Warriors are an amazing team and most coaches would be successful in the regular season with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and company.
Whoever the Kings choose as their new head coach, management needs to make a decision for the overall team. Cousins is the man, but the All-Star needs to be held accountable the same way his teammates are.
Everyone in Sacramento is ready for a fresh start, especially with the new arena just around the corner from opening. Whoever gets hired, fans just want to experience a winning culture again.
I believe Divac is the best guy for this heavy task.
***Managing Editor Leo Beas’ top candidate***
If I had to choose between Messina and Jackson, I would go with Messina. I believe he’s due for a shot to lead an NBA franchise and has a proven track record in Europe and has been learning from the best head coach in the NBA.
And for anyone who might think even for a second, that there might be a language barrier affecting his communication as the leader of a team, here is a video where he has a microphone. Click on the image to take a listen.
And if you were wondering what his philosophy is, here is a video from 2012 published by the Los Angeles Times. He was a consultant for the Los Angels Lakers at the time.
Messina’s track record and European flare would be a nice fit to this already talented offensive team. Having spent time with Popovich will only help his philosophy.