It seemed George Karl was stuck at No. 6 on the list of most coaching wins in NBA history for a long time.
It was more than a week, as the Kings lost to the undermanned Portland Trail Blazers, the league-leading Golden State Warriors and the woeful Philadelphia 76ers.
Saturday, Karl finally tied Phil Jackson for fifth all-time with 1,155 wins. Fittingly, Karl did it with an offensive onslaught as the Kings rolled over the struggling Phoenix Suns 142-119 at Sleep Train Arena. The Suns have lost eight straight games.
Karl, meanwhile, rose in the all-time coaching ranks.
“It’s a good, fun thing with my family,” Karl said. “My son, my daughter, my son-in-law and my staff, we joke about it all the time.”
Karl is 1,155-795 (.592) in 27 seasons. He is 13-20 in his first full season with the Kings. Overall, Karl is 24-39 with Sacramento.
Kings point guard Darren Collison said it was “awesome” for Karl to catch Jackson. Karl has coached against Jackson a lot in the regular season and been tormented by him in the postseason dating to the Seattle SuperSonics losing to the Chicago Bulls in the 1996 NBA Finals.
“We know how long he’s been in the league,” Collison said of Karl. “He’s been one of the best coaches that this league has to offer. We’ve just got to continue to give him more wins so he can surpass Phil Jackson. Phil Jackson is a great coach himself, but it’s good for George. He deserves it.”
Jackson, 70, now runs basketball operations for the New York Knicks.
“He’s a great coach ; he’s maybe the best,” said Karl, 63. “I don’t know what our record is against him, but I’m pretty sure it’s not very good. I know it’s not very good in the playoffs, but it might be decent in the regular season.”
Karl’s focus has been moving the Kings in the right direction, not catching Jackson. Karl got the effort he’s been looking for from the Kings as they piled up season highs for points in a game, field goals (53), field-goal percentage (60.9) and points in a quarter (44 in the third).
The 142 points were the most by the Kings since they scored a Sacramento-record 154 exactly 23 years ago against visiting Philadelphia.
Karl had lamented the Kings’ inconsistent effort this season.
“I’m just an old-school guy that believes that effort magnifies talent,” he said. “Effort unifies a team and creates that happiness.”
The Kings made 17 of 24 shots (.708) in the third quarter to blow the game open. Sacramento scored 83 points in the second half, also a season high for a half.
DeMarcus Cousins led the Kings with 32 points and nine rebounds. He sat out the fourth quarter. Rajon Rondo added 15 points and 15 assists.
Collison had 21 points and six assists off the bench.
Karl said Collison had a lot to do with the second-half surge.
“D.C. was incredible, and it was effort,” Karl said. “I’m not sure it was pretty. I’m not sure it was conceptually excellent. It was just effort.”
Karl’s next chance to pass Jackson is Monday at Oklahoma City, where the Kings have never won.
Rondo put Karl’s place in history in perspective as the Kings prepare for a two-game trip that ends Tuesday in Dallas.
“We want him to pass (Jackson),” Rondo said. “We don’t care about him tying.”