Michael Malone received the phone call Sunday night that ended his time as the Kings’ coach.
Fired 24 games into his second season, Malone believes the Kings made great progress during his tenure.
“Though my time as head coach ended much sooner than anticipated, I am extremely proud of what we were able to accomplish during our time together,” Malone said. “Anchored by a loyal and dedicated coaching staff, we worked hard to instill a culture of discipline, trust and respect that progressed this team further than many expected in a short time.”
After winning only 28 games last season, the Kings were 11-13, including 2-7 without star center DeMarcus Cousins.
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Ben McLemore has made strides in his second season, and Rudy Gay and Cousins are having the best seasons of their careers.
“The development of our players, both on and off the court, has given me the most joy,” Malone said. “Many of them have played the best basketball of their careers, and I am happy to be a small part of that.”
But that wasn’t enough for Malone to keep his job. General manager Pete D’Alessandro said Malone’s focus on defense conflicted with management’s desire for an up-tempo offense.
Though Malone was surprised that Sacramento’s 5-1 start and its 8-4 record with its regular starting five weren’t enough to keep his job, he said he was grateful for the chance to coach the Kings.
“I want to thank Vivek Ranadive for the opportunity and wish the franchise good fortune moving forward,” Malone said.
Jersey hoisted – Peja Stojakovic’s No. 16 jersey has been hoisted to the rafters at Sleep Train Arena.
Stojakovic was at courtside when the banner was displayed at the end of the first quarter of the Kings’ game against the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday.
The jersey retirement ceremony was held Tuesday. Stojakovic’s jersey hangs next to fellow Serb Vlade Divac’s.
Rest needed – Interim coach Tyrone Corbin wants to implement changes to the offense but does not want to overwork the players after an emotional week in which a popular coach was fired.
The Kings do not play again until Sunday, when they host the Los Angeles Lakers, so Corbin might give the players Friday off.
“These guys have been through a lot the last couple of days, so mentally it may be the best thing to give them a day to decompress a little bit and then come back on Saturday and be ready for Sunday,” Corbin said.
Injury report – Forwards Omri Casspi (left knee contusion) and Reggie Evans (left knee and hip contusion) were inactive Thursday.
It was the fourth game Casspi has missed and Evans’ first because of injury.