Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro said he believed Tyrone Corbin could do a good job as the team’s coach this season, something he now realizes was a mistake.
He’s asking George Karl to fix it.
“Sometimes you just have to acknowledge what you’ve done is wrong,” D’Alessandro said.
Karl, 63, has 30 games to begin tinkering with an 18-34 team that lost its passion after Michael Malone was fired Dec. 14.
There won’t be wholesale changes to the coaching staff, Karl said after being introduced to the media Tuesday afternoon at the Kings’ practice facility. He’ll stick with the current assistants – Corliss Williamson, Micah Nori, Dee Brown and Ryan Bowen – before evaluating changes in the offseason.
As for the offense, a big reason Malone was fired, Karl spoke of rhythm, flow and aggression, sounding more like a freestyle rap session than the the jazz band analogy of principal owner Vivek Ranadive.
Players will be asked to see what the game dictates and react, rather than being confined to predetermined offensive sets.
“I kind of compare it to Oregon football,” Karl said. “Don’t let the defense control you; control the defense by playing with flow. And don’t get me wrong, six years ago I believed in execution, running plays, doing it like a lot of NBA coaches do. But you look at San Antonio, they don’t run many plays. They just play basketball.”
Karl’s debut with the Kings will be Friday against the visiting Boston Celtics. The coach admits the first 10 games might have him guessing and testing his theories of where players fit best.
Karl began communicating with players via phone and text messages over the weekend. Their first practice is Wednesday afternoon.
“I actually told most of the players we need to be in the gym,” Karl said. “And this is the time of the year in the NBA teams aren’t in the gym a lot. Teams are getting days off, a lot of days off. I don’t think that’s going to happen. We’ve got to be in the gym if its just for 45, 50 minutes a day just to get something done.”
Under Corbin, the Kings’ performance at times had been so lethargic it forced D’Alessandro to make a move, as the players were clearly upset over losing Malone.
“I wanted to give Ty a chance to coach this team,” said D’Alessandro, who originally expected Corbin to coach the team the rest of the season. “I do think I put him in an impossible situation, and maybe I didn’t recognize that at the time. As you go through it and start seeing the effect of everything, it wasn’t fair to Ty. I don’t know who could have done the job in that situation.”
Karl will have to get the Kings to defend consistently again. Sacramento has been one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA since Dec. 15.
Karl, the sixth-winningest coach in NBA history with 1,131 regular-season victories, will bring credibility, and the players will know Karl has the full backing of management with a four-year contract.
After an 11-13 start under Malone, the Kings were 7-21 with Corbin.
While acknowledging the players’ angst, Karl said “playing the game the right way” and “playing hard” should be givens.
“I’ll be glad to talk to them about all their frustrations,” Karl said. “I think there is frustration in basketball. But I don’t think it’s hard for me to say if frustration is stopping you from playing with an intensity and a commitment, then I’ve got to play with (other) guys.”
Karl will experiment how to best use all his players; that includes finding ways to best use All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins.
“I think everyone’s hung up on DeMarcus being a big man. DeMarcus is a basketball player,” Karl said. “He plays basketball very well, and he can play a lot of different ways. He can play a lot of places. I don’t want to offend anybody on the team, but from what I see, he might be our best passer.”
Now it’s up to the Kings to learn from Karl’s years of experience and success and begin playing with a pride and passion that has been lacking for months. As the players have proven, when they aren’t engaged, the results are hard to watch.
Karl, who hasn’t coached since the 2012-13 season, is ready for one of the bigger challenges of his coaching career.
“I don’t think I can motivate a player on a daily basis, but I think I can inspire a player to love the game,” he said. “I think I can give him inspiration to play the right way, and I can give him guidance, direction and teach.”