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Sacramento Kings fire Paul Westphal as coach

Jan 5, 2012, 2:38 PM EST

Orlando Magic v Sacramento Kings Getty Images

Locker room dissention plus confusion on the court equaled the firing of Paul Westphal as coach of the Sacramento Kings. The team made the announcement Thursday.

Keith Smart will take over in the interim, starting Thursday night when the Kings host the Bucks.

The Kings were 2-5 but not really playing even that well, with both an offense and defense in the bottom five in the league (in points scored/allowed per 100 possessions). After a loss the other night point guard Tyreke Evans said nobody really knew what the offense was supposed to be in crunch time. They looked it.

Then there was Westphal’s ongoing feud with DeMarcus Cousins. The second-year center is a Primma Donna who has detractors in the organization and around the league, but the public handling of issues and recent sitting him for a game had become a bigger distraction than it needed to be. By Westphal releasing a statement to the press saying Cousins demanded a trade he created wedge that didn’t need to exist. Westphal was clearly frustrated and not sure how to handle Cousins, but his moves exacerbated an already difficult situation.

According to Kings co-owner Joe Maloof, Westphal’s firing is more about the fact the team stunk and was not improving than it was about Cousins. NBA.com‘s David Aldridge spoke to Maloof and then tweeted this.

Kings co-owner Joe Maloof says while the Cousins/Westphal dynamic was part of the issue, “none of the guys were playing to their potential.”

The issue with the timing of the move is it makes it appear Cousins has won, which may embolden his behavior. That said, 29 other general managers would have chosen the potential of Cousins over what Westphal was giving the team. This is a team that needs some real leadership, both by a coach and a veteran in the locker room.

That leadership — and accountability — needs to start with Kings GM Geoff Petrie. He is the guy who has hired Eric Musselman, Regie Theus and Westphal in succession. He has made some smart draft picks but has in general assembled a team that does not work together, with questions about how all the pieces fit. He’s the guy buying the ingredients, if the dish doesn’t taste good he has to take some of the blame. Which makes this tweet from Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated interesting.

Per this tired routine, Kings GM Geoff Petrie spent recent days distancing himself from the coach in discussions with Maloofs and others.

  1. fmlizard - Jan 5, 2012 at 2:47 PM

    This type of action will only encourage a guy like Cousins to believe that he is bigger than the coach or the team. Darwin help the next man in the job.

    • brooklynbulls - Jan 5, 2012 at 3:05 PM

      Although I agree with you regarding Cousins (I could picture him ignorantly nodding his head in approval and feeling justified with this news), Westphal clearly needed to go. He had no clear offensive or defensive game plan and had absolutely no control over this team. The press release was particularly tacky and I believe played a huge role in his termination as well.

      Personnel does play a huge factor (too many shoot first players) but a change was definitely needed.

    • slopmcflop - Jan 5, 2012 at 3:07 PM

      While an unfortunate side effect of the firing may be that Cousins thinks his poo don’t stink, the fact is Westphal handled the entire situation extremely poorly. This is a guy who obviously doesn’t know how to handle an attitude. Plenty of NBA coaches have had to deal with head cases and still found ways to win/coach up the other players. It sounds like Westphal got entirely too bogged down in the whole Cousins thing, and focused too much on that instead of the entire team.

      They have talent, let’s see if Smart knows what to do with it.

    • bparmalee - Jan 5, 2012 at 3:22 PM

      I agree on Cousins…I really dont think he can be salvaged. If you’re the Kings I dont know what you do. Tyreke Evans hasnt been playing very well but I’m not sure he is the problem. This team just seems very selfish. Marcus Thorton is going to shoot every time he gets the ball, Salmons is inconsistent, Thompson has shown signs and then disappears and you have no real lock down defenders. Seems like it might be time to blow it up… trade everyone and start from scratch. The roster is just so mismatched.

    • ed289 - Jan 6, 2012 at 1:38 AM

      Westphal dug his own grave. Something like 50 wins and over 120 losses. A lot of those losses before Cousins even arrived. Westphal had lost the team and he knew it that’s why he went public. Cousins is averaging a double double this year in around 27 minutes of playing time. He’s 21 years old and a head case. But a coach with Westphal’s experience should have handled it differently.

  2. birdsflynorth206 - Jan 5, 2012 at 3:09 PM

    The Kings need to do what the Pistons should of and hire Bill Laimbeer. He will bring toughness and a defensive mindset to that team.

    • bparmalee - Jan 5, 2012 at 3:29 PM

      I think Laimbeer could be a good coach but I would hate to see this be his first head coaching job. They already cut the legs out from under one guy and now everyone in the locker room knows that the next guy wont have any real power. If he is offered the job I hope he passes. The players they have wont play defense and Laimbeer may try to kill Cousins. They should throw Jim O’Brien in front of this bus. He will let them all shoot as many 3’s as they want and he could careless what they do on defense. A bad coach for a bad team.

  3. sasquash20 - Jan 5, 2012 at 3:13 PM

    I agree. Half this team is head cases that need to be put in there place. BL isn’t the usual retread that doesn’t get the job done anyhow. So why not give him a shot.

  4. stayhigh_247 - Jan 5, 2012 at 3:32 PM

    it’s time to trade some players. Westphal is a proven coach but times do change even the zenmaster couldn’t get more out of his veterans last season. But Cousins is a disaster, they shouldn’t just stop at the coach, they need to oust the GM that assembled this group of underachievers.

  5. henryd3rd - Jan 5, 2012 at 4:24 PM

    This episode could not have come at a worst time then right now. One must remember that the Kings are trying to convince the city to build them a new stadium. When one adds this episode, poor won and loss record plus the recent work stoppage to this plot it makes the Maloof brothers’ efforts a lot harder to sell to the City of Sacramento.

    They might as well can the GM, move the team and trade Cousins before his trade value plummets to “junk bond” status.

    • brianspider - Jan 5, 2012 at 5:52 PM

      What efforts by the Maloofs?

      They are eager to move the team. All the effort to retain the Kings in Sacramento has been spurred by the fans, mayor, and city itself.

    • skids003 - Jan 6, 2012 at 9:48 AM

      I disagree. The GM has gotten talent. He can’t always be sure where their “heads” are. I wish more teams would just dump these prima donnas, instead of giving them their little entitled ways. Let them get a real job, they are too stupid to realize how lucky they are.

  6. tomshoe - Jan 5, 2012 at 4:34 PM

    Looks like management lost this power struggle. They needed to hold strong and let him get over it and grow up. If they continue to be this weak, Cousins is as good as gone.

  7. letsgosharks - Jan 5, 2012 at 5:07 PM

    I’m still convinced they’ll leave Sacramento.it may not be Anaheim but this franchise is doing nothing to keep the fans interested in Sactown.

  8. jbraxton3rd - Jan 5, 2012 at 5:31 PM

    Unfortunately, the next coach will still have to put up with Cousins’ BS. You heard it from me first!!

  9. chicagofan - Jan 5, 2012 at 7:14 PM

    Westphal was out of a job after those comments by players ,other than Cousin’s, about the lack of offensive structure in Sacramento.Westphal’s misshandling of the recent Cousin situation got him fired quicker. Cousin is lucky no other team wants to give up anything for a pain in the ass like him or he would be gone too.

  10. garyrocktown - Jan 5, 2012 at 7:37 PM

    It can’t get much worse, can it? Cousins will now believe he can act out however he wants because he is more valuable than the coaching staff and his teammates in his immature mind. I understand firing Westphal because they are going nowwhere fast but the timing is terrible. Well let’s see what this bunch of under-achievers use for an excuse next. I don’t think it is the coaching staff shooting in the low 30’s and failing to show any desire to play defense. I honestly have no idea how they fix this, maybe moving down south wasn’t such a bad idea afterall.

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