The Kings have fired coach Dave Joerger a day after the team concluded its best season in more than a decade.
The team announced the firing Thursday morning after a blitz of reports that Kings general manager Vlade Divac, who had hours before accepted a four-year contract extension, would be meeting with Joerger and other front-office personnel to dismiss them.
Joerger had one year remaining on his four-year, $16 million contract. He finishes his tenure in Sacramento with a record just below .400 (98-148).
“After evaluating the season, I determined that we need to move in a different direction in order to take us to the next level,” Divac said in prepared remarks. “On behalf of the entire Kings organization, I want to thank Dave for his contributions to our team and I wish him all the best.”
Warren LeGarie, Joerger’s agent, told The Sacramento Bee his client was surprised and disappointed to learn he had been fired.
“Obviously, it’s a great disappointment,” LeGarie said. “Dave thought, in light of the youth of the team and other challenges, he did a good job, certainly one that other people have recognized around the league. And, more importantly, exceeded expectations.
“I’d be surprised if we’re in the minority of being surprised. It was something that did catch him off guard,” he said. “Clearly, Dave has to try to digest this and understand what was it that made them do this. At this point, they certainly have the right. Nobody questions that. We just felt it was something they probably should have considered a little bit longer.”
Divac also fired assistant general manager Brandon Williams, who clashed with Joerger in an embarrassing spat earlier this season. Also ousted was Chris Clark, longtime director of public relations for the team.
A league source, speaking on condition of anonymity before the moves were made official, told The Bee that Divac would have the power to determine the fates of Joerger and Williams as the organization enters an important offseason.
The Athletic’s Sam Amick and Marc Stein of the New York Times reported Los Angeles Lakers coach Luke Walton would be the frontrunner for the Kings job if he becomes available. Other candidates could include Philadelphia 76ers assistant coach Monty Williams, who was head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans from 2010-15, and San Antonio Spurs assistant Ettore Messina.
The Kings went 39-43 this season after being projected to win fewer than 30 games. They posted their highest win total since their last playoff appearance in 2005-06 but failed to reach the postseason for the 13th year in a row.
Joerger and his coaching staff successfully implemented an up-tempo system that helped the Kings vault into playoff contention this season. They were also credited with improved player development, but a feud between Joerger and Williams over the handling of rookie Marvin Bagley III and other youngsters went public early in the season, setting the stage for this tumultuous ending.