Tyrone Corbin was assured last week he’d be the Kings’ coach for the rest of the season, agreeing to a contract that is commensurate for the job.
The decision by management ends the uncertainty about Corbin’s status after his future was left in limbo the day after Michael Malone was fired.
“You need to hear it – it’s done,” Corbin said. “But as I said when I took over, we’re here together until something changes.”
Until Corbin signed the deal for the rest of the season, there was reason to think the team might make an outside hire. Corbin inherited a team that supported Malone. Many players were not happy with Malone’s dismissal and it appeared the support for Corbin from management was lukewarm.
The day Corbin was announced as interim coach, general manager Pete D’Alessandro said he was unable to commit to Corbin for the rest of the season. Then D’Alessandro and Chris Mullin, adviser to principal owner Vivek Ranadive, invited center DeMarcus Cousins to a meeting with former Warriors coach Mark Jackson after Corbin’s first game as coach Dec. 16. Kings management said the meeting was not to lure Jackson to coach the Kings, but the two men who advised Ranadive to fire Malone meeting with another another possible coaching candidate raised speculation.
Jackson, Mullin and D’Alessandro attended St. John’s University, but Cousins’ inclusion made the gathering appear to be more than an informal class reunion.
Plus, Corbin was hired by Malone but was not the lead assistant Malone’s bosses wanted him to hire.
During the offseason, management wanted Malone to add Alvin Gentry to his staff. Gentry joined the Warriors instead, after league sources said Gentry was promised the head job when Malone was fired, something the Kings deny.
Sources also said Kurt Rambis, now an assistant coach with the New York Knicks, was another preferred choice by Kings management.
But Corbin will be given the rest of the season to see if he can implement the faster-paced offense the front office and ownership want.
“We’ve got to work and make sure we settle down as we try to change things offensively and whatever pace we try to play at, but working to get better,” Corbin said.
That management had made the commitment to Corbin was news to his players.
“I didn’t know,” Cousins said. “I didn’t know officially until (Monday) night, either. That’s when a lot of us found out.”
Corbin is 2-5 since taking over, including 0-2 in games Cousins has missed. Corbin is trying to add different aspects to the offense while figuring out how to get the Kings to play defense at a high level.
Since the emphasis on a faster pace began, the Kings have allowed season highs for points in regulation (128) and overall (129) and have seen field goal and three-point field goal percentages for opponents increase.
“It has to be gradual,” Corbin said. “We don’t want to confuse ourselves as we make tweaks to what we have, so it has to be a gradual thing. You can’t expect them to get it overnight. I think we’ve (gotten) better executing on the offensive end, but defensively we’ve lost a step. So we’ve got to make sure as we try to put more time in on the offensive end, get back to putting more time in on the defensive end as well.”
Cousins said what happens on the court is the players’ responsibility.
The Kings are 13-18, have lost eight of 10 and looked lethargic at times in Monday’s loss at Brooklyn.
“Honestly, at the end of the day, it’s on us no matter who the head guy is on the bench,” Cousins said. “At the end of the day, we go out there and play the games. It’s time for us to stop looking for excuses, stop trying to make excuses. We’ve got to man up and play basketball.
“We know what we need to do on a nightly basis. We know we need to defend and we know we need to share the ball and come out and play hard. I believe with those three things that 70 percent of the job is done. It doesn’t matter, we’ve got to go out and do our jobs.”