Sacramento Kings

Why the Kings had to fire both Dave Joerger and Brandon Williams to ensure stability

Hear Vlade Divac discuss Kings’ front office shake-up

Sacramento Kings General Manager Vlade Divac announced the latest moves for the team including the firing of head coach Dave Joerger on April 11, 2019.
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Sacramento Kings General Manager Vlade Divac announced the latest moves for the team including the firing of head coach Dave Joerger on April 11, 2019.

The dismissal of coach Dave Joerger brought on a difficult breakup for Kings fans desperate for signs of stability in an organization that has chewed through nine coaches since Rick Adelman engineered the team’s last winning season in 2006.

A few strategic differences created an ugly power struggle that led to upheaval, but some in the national media – even some fans right here in Sacramento – don’t understand the root and ramifications of Joerger’s feud with assistant general manager Brandon Williams. Maybe none of us truly understood it until Thursday morning, when Divac, moving quickly after signing a four-year contract extension, relieved both men of their duties hours after the Kings concluded their best season in 13 years.

It was swift. It was stunning. It was necessary. And it cleared the way for a more perfect union between Luke Walton, the best coach on the market, and the organization with the most desirable job opening.

League sources told The Sacramento Bee the Kings finalized a four-year deal with Walton following a face-to-face meeting Saturday in Sacramento. Walton fits what the Kings are doing stylistically and looks like the right choice to lead a young, up-and-coming team.

To get here, Joerger and Williams had to go. Divac had to do this. This decision is, in fact, a sign of stability under the leadership of a man who identified and removed any trace of dysfunction in a franchise that can’t chance the fruits of a poisonous tree.

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“For me to move away from them, I’m hoping to improve the team,” Divac said, “not just on the court but (also in) basketball operations, and I felt like those things have to be done to move forward.”

Joerger and his staff did a remarkable job of developing young players and implementing an uptempo system that launched the Kings into playoff contention. They should walk away with their heads held high. The progress they demonstrated in a 39-win season makes this feel like a risky move, but the early season infighting between Joerger and Williams was too much to overcome.

Williams and Joerger clashed over the coach’s handling of prized rookie Marvin Bagley III and the allocation of minutes for other young players. Williams was widely believed to be a primary source for a Yahoo! Sports story suggesting Joerger’s job could be in jeopardy. Joerger fired back, having Williams thrown out of a morning shoot-around hours before the Kings hosted a nationally televised game.

Joerger wanted to send a message – and he did – hoping that would be the end of it.

“Clearly, once Dave expressed how he felt, he was past that,” said Warren LeGarie, Joerger’s agent. “It was just about coaching the team. Dave felt, once he voiced his displeasure with the way things were being done, he moved on.”

It wasn’t that simple, though.

The whole ordeal was ugly and embarrassing, and it undermined the franchise’s efforts to restore a tarnished reputation, but the spat between Joerger and Williams was more than just a messy situation. It revealed dangerous fault lines beneath the foundation on which the Kings are trying to build a winner.

This led to obvious questions. Could Joerger and Williams coexist? Would there be lingering resentment between Joerger and Bagley? What message would it send to the locker room if Joerger was fired while Williams, suspected of committing the most fireable offense, remained in the front office?

Divac refused to choose sides. Instead, he decided both men had to go.

“I just felt that, moving forward, we needed to make some changes, and this was a big one,” Divac said. “I’m very confident we did the right thing.”

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