Ailene Voisin

Opinion: Sacramento Kings’ talks with George Karl are heating up

A small group of Kings fans raise signs with a message to hire coach George Karl before Friday nights game between the Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, December 26, 2014.
A small group of Kings fans raise signs with a message to hire coach George Karl before Friday nights game between the Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, December 26, 2014. jvillegas@sacbee.com

The Kings are engaged in intense conversations with George Karl about their head coaching position, multiple sources have told The Bee.

Assistant Tyrone Corbin replaced Michael Malone on Dec. 14 after the Kings faltered to a 2-8 record during DeMarcus Cousins’ absence due to viral meningitis. The plan was to have Corbin complete the season, conduct an extensive coaching search, and give the incoming coach the benefit of an entire offseason and training camp.

Besides Karl, an ESPN analyst who is known for dramatically improving franchises, particularly in Denver, Seattle and Milwaukee, the list of future candidates is known to include current NBA assistants Alvin Gentry and Nate McMillan, along with head coaches whose job security is thought to be tenuous, among them Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks.

But the Kings’ ongoing slump – and jarring absence of competitiveness – has prompted principal owner Vivek Ranadive and his front office, headed by general manager Pete D’Alessandro, to move more quickly. The situation was exacerbated Thursday by a blowout loss to the visiting Dallas Mavericks on a night that was intended to celebrate former Kings star Mitch Richmond and was attended by Hall of Fame center Bill Russell.

The Kings, who who play the Utah Jazz tonight in Salt Lake City, have lost 10 of their last 11 games. They play the Phoenix Suns on Sunday at Sleep Train Arena and travel to Chicago and Milwaukee before the Feb. 13-15 All-Star weekend and weeklong break.

While a change is not imminent, multiple sources told The Bee late Friday that the combination of Karl’s innovative coaching and immediate availability has won over team officials who weeks ago expressed concern about a possible personality clash with All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins.

The overriding factor at this point appears to be financial: Karl would command an annual salary upwards of $4 million, a major potential sticking point given that the Kings will continue to pay Malone through the 2015-16 season. Additionally, teams with more attractive rosters are expected to have coaching vacancies at the end of the year, and Karl, who maintains a high profile partly owing to his ESPN appearances, is thought to be heavily pursued.

One other note of interest, though, is Karl’s preference to remain in the West, along with his personal affinity for Sacramento. Though he referred to himself as a “Seattle guy,” he was a vocal advocate of keeping the Kings in Sacramento.

Call The Bee’s Ailene Voisin, (916) 321-1208.

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