The Kings fired coach Michael Malone late Sunday night and replaced him with assistant coach Tyrone Corbin.
After starting the season 5-1, the Kings are 11-13 and have lost three in a row and eight of their last 10.
Star center DeMarcus Cousins has missed the last nine games because of viral meningitis. The Kings are 2-7 without him.
Malone, who went 39-67, was hired before the 2013-14 season after a group led by Vivek Ranadive purchased the franchise and vowed to keep it in Sacramento.
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Malone was hired before Pete D’Alessandro came aboard as general manager. Ranadive declared Malone was the best assistant coach on the market and he had to hire him before another team did.
D’Alessandro said the decision to fire Malone was his and based on philosophical differences on style of play, saying the Kings want to have “compelling” style as they prepare to move into their new arena in 2016.
There was a chasm between Malone and ownership, specifically over the offense Malone used and the style of play. Malone’s background is defense, while Ranadive would prefer a more exciting offense.
“I think (Malone) is going to be a great coach,” D’Alessandro said today. “I think he’s going to be a great defensive-minded coach and reach great heights in his career. I just think philosophically we needed to make a decision. What are we going to do and how are we going to play?”
Ranadive said that after a season of trying to change the franchise’s culture, this season would be about results. Even though the Kings have exceeded the expectations of most observers, an 11-13 record was not good enough for Ranadive.
The Kings might have a better record if not for their penchant of blowing leads. They blew two 20-plus point leads last month and more recently, failed to hold on to a five-point lead with less than a minute to play in losing last Thursday to Houston.
In all those games, the Kings had major breakdowns defensively and the offense would became stagnant, something Ranadive wanted the Kings to get away from.
Ranadive spoke of “positionless” basketball and emulating how the San Antonio Spurs played. But the Kings lack the three-point shooting of the Spurs or Warriors, where Ranadive was a minority owner before leading the group to purchase the Kings.
When the Kings were looking to hire another veteran assistant coach, Alvin Gentry was pursued by management because it was believed he’d improve the offense.
Gentry, however, joined Steve Kerr’s staff in Golden State. Malone hired Corbin, who had been let go by Utah and he had a working relationship with.
Malone’s background is defense. He began his coaching career under Jeff Van Gundy with the rugged New York Knicks and in stops with Cleveland, New Orleans and Golden State, was always praised for his defensive leanings.
D’Alessandro had worked for Chris Mullin and with Don Nelson in Golden State. He’d later work with George Karl in Denver, all teams that excelled at a fast-paced style of play.
Mullin works as Ranadive’s advisor.
There is already speculation D’Alessandro will pursue Karl, who was fired after the 2012-13 season in Denver, and now works as an ESPN analyst.
Ranadive has shown spending money will not be an issue, but whether Karl wants to coach is another.
If Karl waits until the offseason, he might have more options, perhaps teams closer to winning a championship.
Besides Karl, league sources said Mullin was also a candidate for the job.
D’Alessandro would not commit to Corbin through the rest of the season. Corbin is still recovering from surgery for a torn Achilles tendon.
Corbin said there would be tweaks to increase pace and tempo but cautioned that cannot be done all at once.
“You can’t go in and throw all new things at guys at one time,” Corbin said. “There will be some gradual things we’ll do different as we go forward. The main thing is making sure the guys aren’t out there thinking on the floor.”
The Kings next play Tuesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Sleep Train Arena.