The Kings haven’t had a winning season since Moses was a child – OK, at least since Rick Adelman was their coach. But even after 10 consecutive losing seasons, there is hope for better days ahead, which brings us to the coaching search.
Some of us did not like the sacking of George Karl, and we retain the right to doubt whether the Kings will find anybody better. Still, you consider the people they’re interviewing, and you envision Humphrey Bogart in “Casablanca” telling Peter Lorre’s character, “You’re right, Ugarte. I am a little more impressed with you.”
Vlade Divac may not hold letters of transit in a Moroccan desert gin joint, but what the Kings’ general manager does hold is a nice list of candidates to pick from.
The four coaches who already have spoken with Divac are more than acceptable. Some are very good. Of the additional names reported, one brings along the cachet of international intrigue. Ettore Messina, born on the Sicilian coast, multi-champion of the continent, chief underling to Gregg Popovich in San Antonio. How do you pass up on a guy like that? But the competition for his services is stiff. The Lakers also covet Messina. They may have stunk up Southern California worse than a beached whale in San Clemente, but you kind of think they are a franchise that’s not dead as long as that rotting leviathan.
The Kings may not have a coach, but they do have a number of new logos, as revealed in a news conference this week. Already, they’ve spun the new images onto coasters that bartenders slide under pints of Racer 5 at Benny’s. Presumably, Kings logos have swarmed barroom coasters all over midtown. If you can’t find them there, look for one on your lover’s fanny, thanks to the logo tattoo giveaway. Whatever it takes to get the millennial vote, and the Kings are in a battle for that with the Republic FC.
It was telling that the Kings did not offer free tattoos bearing the likeness of DeMarcus Cousins. Does that mean they’re going to trade him? He doesn’t seem to think so, at least according to the mostly upbeat tone he took in his interesting conversations on 1140 KHTK this week with Carmichael Dave. Interesting – and also revealing. Asked if he considered himself a good teammate, Cousins inferred that there are “three people” who say he is not. He did not identify them. Were they teammates? If so, that is a very significant percentage of his locker room.
Cousins also said his feet bother him more every year. This is not a good trend for anybody, and even worse for a big man who plays basketball for a living. Hopefully, the platelet therapy will provide relief for Cousins’ pedal extremities. Losing 20 pounds wouldn’t hurt, either.
If Divac does not trade Cousins, the GM should consider him as a coaching candidate. Cousins is the franchise alpha dog. Whether the replacement is Mike Woodson, Kevin McHale, Vinny Del Negro, Sam Mitchell, Nate McMillan, Elston Turner, Mark Jackson, Messina or somebody else, they’re going to have to get used to his bark. The Kings have already fired five coaches on Cousins’ watch, or the same number of new logos the team unveiled. You may have seen No. 15’s Instagram picture sitting atop Golden 1 Center, looking like the lord of L Street. Maybe Divac should cut to the chase and just name Cousins player-coach. Rajon Rondo can be his assistant.
Looking over the the official field, there is much to like.
Woodson learned from legends. He played for Bob Knight at Indiana and Red Holzman as a New York Knick. Karl hired him in Milwaukee, Woodson’s first stop as an assistant coach in 1996. He worked in Detroit as an assistant under Larry Brown in 2004 when the Pistons beat the Lakers in the NBA Finals. Perhaps more important than his coaching pedigree, Woodson got along well with the talent, including Carmelo Anthony, when he was the Knicks’ head coach.
Cousins’ agent, Dan Fegan, reportedly is friendly with Del Negro, so that connection may work in Vinny’s favor. He’s also compiled a better head-coaching record than Woodson – including making a winner out of a Clippers franchise that had been horrible for some 30 years. But he got bounced out of head-coaching jobs with the Bulls and Clippers amid reports of frayed relationships with Derrick Rose and Chris Paul. It’s a players’ game, you know.
McHale won in Houston, but then James Harden came to camp out of shape, the Rockets lost, and they blamed the coach. Mitchell turned a loser into a winner in Toronto but couldn’t make it stick, and what a tough break for him that he couldn’t stick in Minnesota with all that talent.
Then you’ve got the highly experienced McMillan, the former head man in Seattle and Portland, now an assistant in Indiana. Jackson made the Warriors winners before Steve Kerr made them champions. Former Kings and current Memphis Grizzlies assistant Elston Turner has never been a head coach, but neither had Vince Lombardi until the Packers hired him, and he’d be the first to tell you that winning isn’t everything. But you must remember this, it sure beats 10 consecutive losing seasons, as time goes by.