The Kings’ front office remained in talks with longtime NBA coach George Karl to take over as the team’s head coach this season, league sources said Saturday.
And according to various reports, the biggest obstacle to a deal is DeMarcus Cousins.
The All-Star center wasn’t happy when Michael Malone was fired Dec. 14. The Kings didn’t make a move to hire Karl immediately, opting to go with lead assistant Tyrone Corbin. After initially being noncommittal on Corbin’s status, the Kings named him head coach for the rest of the season at the end of December.
But the Kings’ brass is seeking a way to shake the team out of a funk that reached 11 defeats in 12 games after a 102-90 loss to the Utah Jazz on Saturday night at EnergySolutions Arena.
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The Kings’ front office has had reservations about Karl for some time, especially as to how he’d work with Cousins. The center’s representatives at Relativity Sports also expressed concerns about Karl, according to league sources.
That puts Cousins squarely in the middle of the situation with the Kings having misgivings about a coach who might rile up their star player, though Cousins does not believe he has such influence.
“Of course my name is going to get thrown into it. I’m the franchise centerpiece,” Cousins said. “I’m waiting just like you guys. It’s always going to be he say-she say. Until you hear it from the horse’s mouth, that’s what it’s going to be.”
Cousins declined to speak more about the situation, but if he had the clout he reportedly has, Malone would not have been fired.
Meanwhile, Corbin is still the Kings’ coach with an uncertain future.
“I have no comment about any of that stuff,” Corbin said when asked if he’d spoken to ownership or management about his situation.
Sources indicated Karl’s compensation remains a sticking point and no deal is imminent. But the suddenly aggressive pursuit of Karl is a change after the Kings did not reach out to him in this manner after firing Malone.
The Kings are 6-19 under Corbin after going 11-13 under Malone. Malone was 2-7 without Cousins, who was sidelined because of viral meningitis.
Karl is the most accomplished coach available. He is one of six coaches in league history with more than 1,000 wins (1,131).
While the Kings would not want to upset Cousins or his representatives, Dan Fegan and Jarinn Tasi Akana, their front office has plenty of questions about Karl.
General manager Pete D’Alessandro and assistant general manager Mike Bratz worked with Karl in Denver, so they have insight as to how Karl might do in Sacramento.
Karl’s last season was 2012-13, when he was named NBA Coach of the Year with the Nuggets before being fired in the offseason. It was the same offseason D’Alessandro left Denver and brought Bratz with him to Sacramento.
Karl, who is working as an analyst for ESPN, has said publicly he wants to coach again. He thanked fans in Sacramento for their support via his Twitter account. He also acknowledged support from Orlando, which fired coach Jacque Vaughn last week.
The news came as Corbin returned to Utah, where his contract as head coach was not renewed last spring.
Corbin took over the Jazz just past midseason during 2010-11. He said the in-season change isn’t any easier this time with Sacramento.
“It’s a tough situation to be in, but you know what? It’s part of your journey,” Corbin said. “You do the best job you can, and hopefully, things work out.”
While not commenting on his status with the Kings, Corbin said he was not bitter over not being retained in Utah, where he also played.
“I understand the nature of the business. I played in it 16 years,” Corbin said. “Changes happen.”
And the Kings have had plenty of change, and more might be on the way.