UPDATE: Westphal and Kings co-owner Joe Maloof have confirmed the decision to The Bee - read here.
By Sam Amick
According to two sources with knowledge of the situation, the Kings will hire former Phoenix and Seattle head coach Paul Westphal for their vacant head coaching position.
Westphal is believed to have agreed to a deal for two guaranteed seasons at $1.5 million per with the third season a team option worth $1.7 million.
BLOG CORRECTION: Upon further review, the third year is worth $2 million
There are likely incentives in the deal that could reward Westphal if the Kings improved even moderately from their franchise-worst 17-win campaign in 2008-09.
The decision brings an end to a Kings coaching search that lasted 47 days and came with similar twists and turns as the ones that had come before. It began with Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie calling for experience over experiments, setting parameters that the Kings' fifth coach since 2006 would have to be have had "some level of success" as an NBA head coach. Eddie Jordan and Westphal were the first candidates, both of them easily meeting the qualifications and kickstarting the process with interviews on May 12 and May 13, respectively.
Lakers assistant Kurt Rambis eventually entered with a second group that also included Boston associate head coach Tom Thibodeau, just about the time Jordan was bowing out voluntarily. Despite being seen as a frontrunner largely for his ties to Petrie and the organization, Jordan was hired by Philadelphia on May 29. Just a day later, Thibodeau was interviewed by the Kings in Las Vegas and was followed the next day by Rambis' interview in Los Angeles.
Throughout the later stages of the process, Kings co-owners Joe and Gavin Maloof and Petrie repeatedly made it clear that Rambis, Westphal, and Thibodeau were all impressive in their interviews and that they were all being seriously considered. And while Rambis was believed by most to be the front runner, sources say discussions between the Kings and his agent, Warren LeGarie, stalled for too long while Westphal waited for a verdict.
With the Lakers in the midst of the NBA Finals against Orlando, Rambis was adamant that he remain loyal to the Lakers and focused on the task of winning a championship. Westphal, meanwhile, had grown impatient enough that sources say he was close to pulling out of the race. In the end, however, he was alone at the finish line.