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George Karl likely to take over in first game after break

George Karl, shown in 2013, was honored as the NBA’s top coach that year, but Denver fired him after an early playoff exit.
George Karl, shown in 2013, was honored as the NBA’s top coach that year, but Denver fired him after an early playoff exit. The Associated Press

The Kings arrived here Monday knowing Tyrone Corbin will coach the next two games while the team continued to negotiate with George Karl to become their coach, multiple sources told The Bee.

Kings officials met with Corbin after Sunday’s win over Phoenix and told him he will coach tonight at Chicago and Wednesday at Milwaukee.

If the Kings and Karl reach a deal, he will coach his first game after the All-Star break, on Feb. 20 against Boston at Sleep Train Arena. The deal would pay Karl $4 million to $5 million per season for up to four seasons.

What looks to be the inevitable hiring of Karl during the break has been anything but smooth.

Corbin has coached two games while it’s been known publicly the team has been negotiating to replace him after telling him in December he’d be the coach for the rest of the season.

And All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins is unhappy that it was leaked to the media that he and his agents were working behind the scenes to prevent the team from hiring Karl.

Now some players are turned off by the idea of playing for Karl, who despite his success has feuded with star players, including Ray Allen and Carmelo Anthony, and management.

That history led some close to Cousins to question whether Karl’s personality would mesh with Cousins’ intensity.

Though Cousins’ agents, Dan Fegan and Jarinn Akana, have been cited as the biggest impediments to Karl’s hiring, the Kings have had their own concerns about him, one reason he was not contacted sooner. After the Kings abruptly fired coach Michael Malone on Dec. 14, team officials expressed to Cousins their concern over how Karl might work with him.

The Kings have plenty of insight on Karl. General manager Pete D’Alessandro, assistant general manager Mike Bratz and statistical analyst Dean Oliver worked with Karl in Denver, and Kings adviser Chris Mullin played for Karl with the Warriors.

At the insistence of principal owner Vivek Ranadive, D’Alessandro met with Karl last week. Talks have been ongoing, and a resolution is expected soon.

If Karl is hired, he will step into a difficult situation. Malone’s firing has made players wary of front-office decisions.

Since Corbin replaced Malone, the Kings have gone 7-19, largely because of lackluster play and confusion.

Though Cousins has been mentioned prominently, he isn’t the only player dissatisfied with how Malone was treated after the Kings started 11-13, seven of those losses coming without Cousins because of viral meningitis. Malone’s firing left players disenchanted with the front office and sent the team into a tailspin.

Forward Rudy Gay, who signed a three-year extension before the season largely because he wanted to play for Malone, recently told The Bee he felt “lost” on the court.

Karl would have to inspire the Kings’ top two players to repair the damage done by Malone’s firing in time for next season.

Karl, 63, has been a winner for most of his career, with a 1,131-756 (.599) record, but he hasn’t coached since being named the NBA Coach of the Year in 2013 with Denver. The Nuggets fired Karl after a team-record 57-win regular season ended with an upset loss to Golden State in the first round of the playoffs.

Denver made the playoffs in all nine seasons he coached there but advanced past the first round only once, losing in the Western Conference finals to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009.

Karl’s Nuggets teams featured several strong personalities, evidence he would connect with Cousins.

But that’s still Corbin’s task.

Follow The Bee’s Jason Jones on Twitter @mr_jasonjones and read more about the team at www.sacbee.com/kings.

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