Is new Kings coach Dave Joerger jumping from one unstable situation to another?
Despite six consecutive playoff appearances, the Memphis Grizzlies have been described as dysfunctional in some reports amid front office changes and questions about whether Joerger really wanted to be their coach and if he was on board with management.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because the Kings’ front office and its past three coaching staffs have been out of step since Vivek Ranadive became principal owner in 2013. With numerous personnel changes in the front office as well as three head coaches over the last three seasons, the Kings were destined to be out of sync.
But with hiring Joerger as coach, the Kings hope to end their reputation as an unstable and dysfunctional franchise.
Joerger, 42, was formally introduced Tuesday morning at a downtown news conference, where he made his first public comments after a whirlwind of activity in which he was fired in Memphis on Saturday and hired in Sacramento on Monday.
Joerger believes the Kings are on the path toward success under general manager Vlade Divac. After being dismissed by Memphis, he said the Kings were his “1 and 1-A” choices for his next job.
“I’m not worried about the Memphis situation,” Joerger said. “I had fantastic years there. The situation here is very positive. … It’s a good feeling right now, a really good feeling.”
Joerger said he hoped to prove he was the coach for the long term in Memphis, where he went 147-99 and made the playoffs in each of his three seasons.
Joerger was fired in part because the Grizzlies believed he was trying to interview for the Kings’ job while still the Memphis coach, a scenario he and Divac denied.
Joerger has had his share of drama on the job. He took over for the popular Lionel Hollins in 2013, and a year later, the front office personnel who hired him were gone.
“I had three pretty interesting seasons in Memphis,” Joerger said. “First of all, Lionel was let go after a Western Conference finals run, which was a crazy time. I got the job pretty late, didn’t put my staff together (until late). It was really a bang-bang deal.”
Joerger’s offseason in 2014 was eventful, too, thanks to the executive shake-up.
“Season’s over, you think you’re fine,” he said. “You start to go into relax mode and then (CEO) Jason Levien and (assistant general manager) Stu Lash get fired and you just keep running.”
That also was the offseason when Joerger interviewed for the Minnesota Timberwolves’ coaching job.
Upheaval also has accompanied the Kings since 2013.
Michael Malone, who was well liked in the locker room and was the first coach on the same page with center DeMarcus Cousins, was not in step with GM Pete D’Alessandro and was fired in December 2014 after a 11-13 start.
Tyrone Corbin, Malone’s assistant, was given the job as coach for the rest of the season. But Corbin couldn’t lift the Kings out of their funk after Malone’s sudden dismissal and lasted just 28 games, winning seven.
Ranadive then hired the coach he wanted, George Karl, and D’Alessandro returned to the Denver Nuggets after the season.
Divac arrived in Sacramento promising to turn around the once-proud franchise and fired Karl after less than two full seasons as coach. Karl recently told The Sacramento Bee he never felt he had the full support of Divac and the front office.
All the while, player strife persisted in the locker room.
Joerger and Divac pledged to work in unison.
“The coach and the general manager are absolutely on the same team,” Joerger said. “And going forward like this, our front office, our coaching staff, that’s going to go all the way through the organization.”
Divac said the Kings’ instability is over with the hiring of Joerger.
“In California, they have that (fast-food) chain In-N-Out,” he said, “and we’ve got a (team philosophy), in or out.”
Joerger said he already had spoken with Kings forward Rudy Gay and center Kosta Koufos, both of whom he coached in Memphis. He planned to meet with Cousins on Tuesday.
The Kings are coming off a 33-49 season, their best in eight years. For the last 10 seasons, they have posted losing records and missed the playoffs.
Joerger, however, sees a great opportunity with the Kings.
“The team’s on the rise,” he said. “There’s still some heavy lifting to do, but some of the heavy lifting has been done. This is not a blow-it-up, let’s-start-all-over-again situation. We’re on the road to recovery.”