Photos Loading
previous next
  • Paul Kitagaki Jr. Bee file, 2004

  • Hector Amezcua hamezcua@sacbee.com

  • Randy Pench Bee file, 1995

The Kings' coaches round table

Published: Monday, Jun. 3, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 2C
Last Modified: Monday, Sep. 23, 2013 - 8:32 am

When Michael Malone is officially introduced today as the Kings' new coach, he will become the 14th head coach of the franchise's Sacramento era. The Bee's Joe Davidson looks back at his predecessors:

PHIL JOHNSON

• Seasons: 1985-87

• Record: 51-77 (.398)

• Recap: The friendly, low-key Johnson relocated with the Kings from Kansas City, guiding the the club to 37 wins and a playoff sweep loss against the Rockets, who reached the Finals. The end for Johnson was swift. Midway through the 1986-87 season, Kings missed all 18 of their first-quarter shots against the Lakers at The Forum, setting an NBA record for futility. They trailed 29-0 early and 40-4 after one quarter. Then club-president Joe Axelson recalled team owner Gregg Lukenbill to be "as livid as any human being I've ever seen."

JERRY REYNOLDS

• Season: 1986-87

• Record: 15-21 (.417)

• Recap: The folksy and fun Reynolds went from unassuming assistant coach to stabilizing interim head coach after Johnson's termination. In his introductory news conference, Reynolds said he was no Bobby Knight but that he could work on increasing his profanity, adding, "I'm a country boy. I can always go back and work in my piano factory in French Lick (Ind.)." Reynolds moved to the front office following the season.

BILL RUSSELL

• Season: 1987-88

• Record: 17-41 (.293)

• Recap: Kings executives made a desperate reach for a big-name hire, and blundered with Russell. The Boston Celtics Hall of Famer with 11 championship rings seemed detached. He'd often sit in the Arco Arena seats during practice, sipping coffee and reading the newspaper. He was terminated with 24 games left in his first season, moved to the front office where he gaffed again in picking Pervis Ellison No. 1 overall in the 1989 draft.

JERRY REYNOLDS

• Seasons: 1987-90

• Record: 41-93 (.306)

• Recap: Reynolds saved the day again in replacing Russell, but the role wore on him as the losses mounted. Reynolds said years later that coaching made him a grouch. He collapsed during a December, 1988 game at Arco Arena and was wheeled out. Many feared a heart attack. It was fatigue. With a 7-21 record early in the 1989-90 season, Reynolds gladly returned to the front office in stepping aside for Dick Motta.

DICK MOTTA

• Seasons: 1990-91

• Record: 48-113 (.298)

• Recap: Motta took over in January 1990, and it was a rough marriage from the start. The young Kings didn't adapt, or want to, to his archaic half-court sets, preferring to run. Motta wanted to bench the entire team more than once. The lowlight was the still-standing NBA-record 43-game road losing streak. (After the Kings ended the skid, he rewarded the players with six-packs of beer on the team plane, appropriately nicknamed "Airball One.") Motta said he was ready to fire, but the club beat him to the punch, terminating him. on Christmas eve 1991. "Best Christmas present I ever got, " he crowed.

REX HUGHES

• Season: 1991-92

• Record: 22-35 (.386)

• Recap: Hughes picked up the shattered pieces from the Motta mess on an interim basis. He couldn't inspire a roster with a culture of losing.

GARRY ST. JEAN

• Seasons: 1992-97

• Record: 159-236 (.403)

• Recap: Best known as "Saint, " with a cheery outlook on everything with his "PMA - Positive Mental Attitude", he guided the team's first playoff march in 10 years, in 1995-96. Saint said that season was one in which he could go to the grocery store and see "the produce smiling back at me." But mounting losses and fading playoff hopes in 1997 spelled his demise.

EDDIE JORDAN

• Seasons: 1997-98

• Record: 33-64 (.340)

• Recap: Jordan got off to a promising start as a first-time head coach, but a 3-26 run down the stretch doomed him. It was against the wishes of club president Geoff Petrie that owner Jim Thomas fired him with the classic image of Petrie looking away at the newsconference while Thomas spoke.

RICK ADELMAN

• Seasons: 1998-2006

• Record: 395-229 (.633)

• Recap: After two NBA Finals appearances with the Blazers and a sputtering run with the Warriors, Adelman captained the best era in franchise history. The Kings were a global story, with chemistry the foundation with Vlade Divac, Chris Webber and others. The Kings enjoyed eight consecutive playoff trips, the high-water mark coming in 2002 with a trip to the Western Conference Finals. The last playoff team was in 2005-06, when midseason acquisition Ron Artest (for Peja Stojakpvic) inspired a run against the Spurs. Adelman was "shocked and disappointed" that his contract was not extended following a competitive series with the Spurs. He was not beloved by the Maloofs, who courted Phil Jackson the previous summer, infuriating Adelman.

ERIC MUSSELMAN

• Season: 2006-07

• Record: 33-49 (.402)

• Recap: The roster still had some core pieces from the recent playoff teams for Musselman, the former Warriors coach. But an 8-5 start turned into a 5-17 finish, and Musselman was released after one season.

REGGIE THEUS

• Seasons: 2007-09

• Record: 44-62 (.415)

• Recap: The Kings initially were ready to promote assistant coach Scott Brooks, now the head man with Oklahoma City Thunder. But Theus dazzled the Maloofs in an 11th hour interview process. Theus assured a return to glory, but the wheels were already starting to fall off. The Kings lost 13 of 15 games in starting 6-18 in Theus' second season, and he was terminated. Theus was the sixth coach to be fired before Christmas that season, topping the previous Bah Humbug mark of three.

KENNY NATT

• Season: 2008-09

• Record: 11-47 (.190)

• Recap: Natt went from assistant to new boss, but a league-worst 17-win season prompted more change. The Kings wound up with the No. 4 pick and grabbed Tyreke Evans.

PAUL WESTPHAL

• Seasons: 2009-12

• Record: 51-120 (.298)

• Recap: Westphal earlier guided a veteran-laded Suns group, headed by Kevin Johnson and Charles Barkley, to the 1993 Finals, and then struggled to inspire the youngest team in the NBA with the Kings. There was no veteran leadership, and Westphal had a strained relationship with DeMarcus Cousins, whom he had booted from practice.

KEITH SMART

• Seasons: 2012-13

• Record: 48-93 (.340)

• Recap: Smart hasn't had the best of karma luck. He wasn't retained as head coach by the Warriors after the team was sold, and he was released with a year left on his Kings deal when the franchise sold to the Vivek Ranadive group. In between, Smart had a team that that featured too much one-on-one play, and Cousins, who showcased great promise but also had too many technical fouls and bad body English, upsetting his coaches and teammates. Smart also received little help through free-agency, drafts and trades, in part because the Maloofs were operating on the cheap.

Follow on Twitter: @SacBee_JoeD and on podcast: ESPN1320.net

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Joe Davidson



Sacramento Bee Job listing powered by Careerbuilder.com
Quick Job Search
Sacramento Bee Jobs »
Buy
Used Cars
Dealer and private-party ads
Make:

Model:

Price Range:
to
Search within:
miles of ZIP

Advanced Search | 1982 & Older

TODAY'S CIRCULARS