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Kings' Joerger still hoping for his shot at greatness after a long road to 200 wins

Dave Joerger on his 200th win

Sacramento Kings head coach Dave Joerger on winning 200 games as coach in the NBA.
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Sacramento Kings head coach Dave Joerger on winning 200 games as coach in the NBA.

Dave Joerger was 53 wins short of 200 for his NBA career when the Kings hired him in May 2016.

At that time, it would have seemed like a failure if he would need nearly two full seasons to reach 200. But the Kings he inherited are much different than the Kings he coaches now.

Fans hoping for the best odds in the NBA draft lottery would have been content if No. 200 took longer. But it finally came in a 94-88 victory over the Orlando Magic Friday night at Golden 1 Center.

Joerger finished each of his three seasons in Memphis above .500, but will have back-to-back losing seasons in Sacramento. Joerger said he hadn't thought much about No. 200, but sitting on the cusp of the milestone provided a dose of introspection on his path to the NBA.

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Sacramento Kings forward Garrett Temple (17) celebrates a three pointer with fans. Hector Amezcua hamezcua@sacbee.com

"You do reflect upon the people that I chased to be in the NBA," Joerger said. "Flip Saunders, George Karl, Phil Jackson, Eric Musselman, Rick Carlisle."

They, like Joerger, began their coaching careers in lower-level leagues, where roster turnover, long bus rides and commercial flights are the norm. He still draws on that background to deal with unexpected changes.

"All those guys that had minor-league connections and got to be head coaches and got to three, four, 500 wins because they stuck around and they're legendary and they did a great job. I still look up to those guys today and maybe someday I'll get a chance to be there as well," Joerger said. "But where we are now, that's very humbling to me."

The Kings (21-45) have been in full rebuilding mode for approximately 13 months, since trading All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins.

Over that time, veterans have praised Joerger's honesty and approach, even as he tells them they won't be playing because the Kings are dedicating minutes to young, unproven players.

Perhaps it was fitting the three oldest Kings on the court led Sacramento in scoring against the Magic (20-46). Garrett Temple (23 points), Kosta Koufos (season-high 18 points and 12 rebounds) and Vince Carter (15 points) did the bulk of the scoring.

Temple said the coach is "almost a genius" as a tactician on offense.

"He's a player's coach," Temple said. "He doesn't berate players. He's not the old-school type guy that gets on you hard. He allows player to come talk to him about different things they see in the game, and you love having that communication with your coach as a player. "

Joerger's demeanor on a team with so many young players is important. He could crush the confidence of the team if he takes the wrong approach.

"He's one of those that believes in the young guys and continues to instill confidence in the young guys," Koufos said. "And that's what you need, especially being a young guy trying to come into the NBA and having the opportunity to play. It's OK if you mess up, as long as you're playing hard, that's the biggest thing."

That's not to say this season is easy on Joerger. He still coaches to win games, even though lottery odds improve with losses.

"(Joerger) works extremely hard. He just wants to win; he wants to see us succeed," Carter said. "Obviously it's a tough situation, we're just trying to get our young guys on the same page."

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Sacramento Kings guard Vince Carter (15) reacts to missing a three point basket after he was fouled by the Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac (1). Hector Amezcua hamezcua@sacbee.com

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