PAUL KITAGAKI JR. / pkitagaki@sacbee.com

Coach Keith Smart says despite the Kings' 4-12 record, he doesn't plan to drastically change his approach.

Smart says losses don't deter him from mission

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Friday, Dec. 28, 2012 - 12:18 pm

As the losses pile up, Kings coach Keith Smart understands where the blame will be placed.

"(The players) get all the glory when they win and play well, and I'll take all the heat when we lose," Smart said. "That's how it's supposed to be, isn't it? We know that's how it goes."

Smart must feel the temperature rising.

The Kings are 4-12 and coming off a 35-point whipping by the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday in which the players looked disinterested.

The Kings' effort was questioned, along with Smart's substitution patterns and strategy. And the coach questions those same things about the team and himself.

Smart said he studies every possession from each game, trying to decide if each player rotation or play call could be tweaked to improve the team. He relies on a network of coaches and mentors who follow his career for advice and critiques of his coaching.

"I'm constantly doing that because I want to be a great coach in this league," Smart said. "I don't want to be some coach that's bouncing from here to there. I want to be a coach that's going to win, that's going to win big and one day win a championship.

"So I'm evaluating myself with the personnel, with the people I work with, the people that I'm coaching all the time."

Smart's film study allows him to gather a lot of statistical data so he can give his players plenty of analysis of how to improve.

"It's like the head coach of stats," forward Jason Thompson said. "He's a guy that when you play well … your stats are this, that and the third. He's very informative and statistical when it comes to that stuff."

Smart said he has no intention of drastically altering his approach, even with the Kings struggling. He believes he has to mix-and-match a lot to find the best matchups depending on the opponent, even if it means using 10 or 11 players.

The Kings' start to this season qualifies as a slump, and they've lost eight of their last 10 games.

The last two losses came without guard Tyreke Evans, who was playing well before suffering a bruised left knee. Smart said losing Evans is just the latest disruption in the Kings' attempts at continuity.

DeMarcus Cousins and Thomas Robinson both had two-game suspensions, and Isaiah Thomas and John Salmons have missed time for personal reasons.

"Our team is built right now to the point that if we lose a guy, we don't miss a beat because somebody is just as good behind him," Smart said.

After practicing Monday, Evans could return for Wednesday's game against Toronto. Evans lamented watching the Kings appear to be "going through the motions" in the rout by the Clippers. He said Smart's message has been consistent through the losses.

"Just play hard," Evans said. "We've got to go out there and play hard. We know that we're young; we've just got to go out there and play. When we pout and do things like that, it kind of messes up our team."

The players can control the pouting, but it's up to Smart to prepare them and put them in position to succeed. If the Kings keep losing, Smart knows who will be blamed.

"I'm trying to be a good coach in this league," Smart said. "For a long, long time."

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Jason Jones



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