Sacramento, CA – Its been a tumultuous year. After firing two coaches this season the Kings finally found their man. Sacramento introduced their third head coach, George Karl yesterday. With thirty games remaining in the season, this could very well be training camp for Karl or a mad dash for that final eight spot in the Western Conference.
The biggest challenge will be changing the moral from losing to winning. Today will be the first practice after the NBA All-Star break. The one advantage to players buying in quickly to their new head coach, would be his track record. A 25-year veteran, NBA Coach of the Year, and his ability to turn a franchise around of .500 or better as he did throughout his career.
“I’m extremely excited for the opportunity to coach again in the NBA,” said Karl. “I’m looking forward to the challenge of helping guide the franchise back to greatness.”
Unlike the last two coaches, Karl has more experience and a better record for success over time. But that’s the least of his problems with the Kings. NBA All-Star DeMarcus Cousins has proven to be the best on the team. After falling ill earlier in the season under head coach Michael Malone. Sacramento’s winning ways to start the season disappeared and has yet to return.
Since then the Kings have struggled to find ways to win. The talent is there but the unexpected change of coaches has taken a toll. General Manager Pete D’Allessandro admitted to not making the right decision by hiring Karl back in December. Instead he gave the lead assistant coach, Ty Corbin the opportunity to coach the team while players remained upset about Malone’s firing.
“I wanted to give Ty a chance to coach this team,” D’Alessandro said. “I do think I put him in an impossible situation, and maybe I didn’t recognize that at the time. As you go through it and see the effects of everything, it wasn’t fair to Ty. I don’t know who could have done the job in that situation.”
Malone who specialized in defense finally got his players to defend until his dismissal. Since then it’s been an uphill battle for everything. Karl, the sixth-winningest coach in the NBA still has one goal to accomplish, and that’s an NBA Championship. After two bouts with Cancer, Karl hasn’t coach since the 2012-2013 season. He’s beaten prostate cancer and throat cancer. He’ll be cancer-free in April which will be a 5-year milestone.
“I’m a better person because of my cancer battles,” said Karl. “I wasn’t always the best person on the court. I think most of my time as a coach, I’ve been a dictator on the basketball court. Since my second cancer, I have become more balanced and more of a director.”
Well, it’ obvious 30 games will not be enough to get the franchise back to its winning ways. But anything is possible, Karl has led his teams to the playoffs in 22 of his 25 NBA seasons. He’s watched the team closely over the last few months and wants to build the teams confidence back up. The expectations are high and the newest head coach accepts the challenge one hundred percent.
“I’ve missed the gym and I love the game,” Karl explained. “I wanted one more try to win a championship. This is the team that will help me achieve that.”