The Kings are on the verge of making a move that would signal the organization’s intention to keep Dave Joerger and his coaching staff in place for at least one more season.
A league source Sunday told The Bee the team is in the process of picking up options on Joerger’s assistant coaches for the 2019-20 season, which would align their contracts with his. The source spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal had not be finalized.
The Kings had not announced an agreement as of Monday afternoon, but Joerger addressed the situation before the team’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers.
“It’s a group of guys that I care deeply about and I’ve been very fortunate to get the chance to work with them, and obviously, I’m very excited that another year is being (added to their contracts),” Joerger said.
Joerger is under contract for next season, but assistants Elston Turner, Bryan Gates, Duane Ticknor, Bob Thornton, Jason March, Larry Lewis, Bobby Jackson, Phil Ricci and Dan Hartfield have been working without a guarantee for 2019-20. The Kings picked up the fourth-year option on Joerger’s contract and extended general manager Vlade Divac’s deal in September 2017, securing the services of both men through the end of next season.
Much of Joerger’s coaching staff has been together since he took the job in Sacramento in 2016. Turner, Thornton, March, Ticknor and Hartfield worked with Joerger when he was coaching the Memphis Grizzlies.
The staff’s future was called into question in November when a Yahoo Sports report suggested Joerger’s job could be in jeopardy due to his handling of some of the team’s younger players, most notably rookie big men Marvin Bagley III and Harry Giles III. The story alluded to front-office frustration with Joerger’s allocation of minutes, noting he preferred to play veterans over developing young players, particularly in crunch-time situations.
There was more drama two weeks later when Joerger asked assistant general manager Brandon Williams – widely believed to be the primary source for the Yahoo Sports story – to leave the team’s shoot-around before a nationally televised game against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Divac issued two statements in response to those developments. The first said: “Dave has our full support and confidence. We continue to work together to develop our young core and compete.” The second said: “I have advised my front office and coaching staff to not focus on drama and rumors, but instead to focus on continuing to develop our young and exciting team. And that’s what we’re going to do.”
Joerger and his assistants have worked diligently on player development, and the Kings (22-21) are in contention for their first playoff berth since 2005-06 with youngsters such as Bagley, Giles, Justin Jackson and Yogi Ferrell carving out bigger roles.
Bagley, the No. 2 pick in last summer’s NBA Draft, missed two games with a back injury and 11 games with a knee injury, but he has averaged more than 24 minutes per contest over his last 14 games.
Giles, who missed most of his past three high school, college and NBA seasons while recovering from a series of knee injuries, has been more of a work in progress. He averaged about 10 minutes per game in October, November and December and logged three brief stints in the G League, but he has averaged 16.9 minutes for the Kings over the past seven games.
The organization could have waited until this summer to address the contract situations of Joerger’s staff, but extending his assistants now provides job security for everyone involved and ensures they can remain focused on their work in Sacramento.
“We have a terrific group of guys,” Joerger said. “First of all, they’re really good men ... guys that care about our players, and the players know that. Also, they care about what’s best for the organization and, in doing so, are very loyal and hard working, and also very unified.”
This move by the Kings indicates the organization is committed to Joerger, his staff and their continuing efforts to develop a young team that has exceeded expectations this season. Player development has long been a source of frustration for the Kings, but Joerger’s staff has been credited with helping a number of young players improve, including De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Jackson, Bagley and Giles.
“It is really a developmental situation as far as a young team and their individual skills,” Joerger said. “... It’s not just shooting X number of shots with the right form. It’s time spent with the video situations and teaching, and the way you teach is different with each guy, just like every teacher knows.”