Sources: Kings planning to fire coach George Karl in coming days

ByMarc Stein ESPN logo
Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Sacramento Kings are going ahead with a coaching change and plan to fire George Karl in the coming days, league sources told ESPN.

NBA coaching sources told ESPN that the Kings have decided internally that a change on the bench is needed and is likely to happen after Sacramento plays its final game before the All-Star break Wednesday in Philadelphia.

After Sacramento's listless 120-100 loss Monday in Cleveland, with Karl's dismissal increasingly regarded as an inevitability in league coaching circles, sources said the decision to proceed with a change on the bench is being made by Kings general manager Vlade Divac.

Although final details continue to be worked out, former Kings forward Corliss Williamson remains the overwhelming favorite to take over as interim coach, as ESPN reported early Saturday.

The Kings flew to Philadelphia late Monday for their game Wednesday against the 76ers. Sacramento fell to 21-31 with the loss Monday and trail Utah by five games for the eighth and final postseason spot in the Western Conference.

Within the organization, according to sources, concerns have been mounting for weeks that Karl was not providing the stewardship Sacramento expected when it hired the 64-year-old from ESPN during the 2015 All-Star break to replace then-interim coach Tyrone Corbin.

Sources said rising dismay, both within the front office and among players, with Karl's defensive schemes, practice policies and general leadership have had a demoralizing effect on the players, who have slumped into a 1-8 funk in the wake of a recent five-game winning streak that briefly had Sacramento in the West's eighth playoff spot.

Kings guard Rajon Rondo, who has been one of Karl's biggest backers among the players, appeared to take issue with Karl's decision to make morning shootaround optional before Monday's loss to the Cavaliers.

"With optional shootarounds, it's tough ... When three or four guys show up for shootaround this morning, how can you expect to win?" Rondo told the Sacramento Bee.

Kings owner Vivek Ranadive has made no secret of his hope to see his team reach the postseason and bring a halt to the franchise's nine-season playoff drought. The Kings are in their final season at Sleep Train Arena before moving into a new building in Sacramento.

Divac, sources said, is seeking only an interim coach for now and wants to take his time with a proper coaching search, in hopes of bringing some much-needed stability to the position and the organization.

The Kings' next coach will be their league-most ninth since 2006-07, the season that began the postseason drought.

Sources said Ranadive, who took ownership in May 2013, has left the decision of whether to fire Karl fully with Divac. The owner twice bucked NBA convention by hiring a coach -- first Mike Malone, then Karl -- before hiring his GM.

Divac wasn't installed as the Kings' lead decision-maker until after Karl was hired in February 2015. He replaced Pete D'Alessandro as Kings GM after Malone was ousted in December 2014.

ESPN reported Saturday that the Kings had hoped to delay any decision about Karl's future until the All-Star break, but a road loss Friday to lowly Brooklyn -- and the fallout it generated -- put Karl's job under immediate threat. Former Kings guard Bobby Jackson, who played alongside Divac on Sacramento's best teams in the early 2000s, essentially called for Karl's dismissal on the team's local postgame show after the Brooklyn defeat.

Karl has an estimated $10 million in guaranteed money left on his original four-year, $15 million contract with the Kings. His ouster would be the sixth coaching change of this NBA season, which is two shy of the league's record of eight before the All-Star break, set during the 2008-09 season.

New York's Derek Fisher and Phoenix's Jeff Hornacek were fired in the past two weeks, with Houston's Kevin McHale, Brooklyn's Lionel Hollins and Cleveland's David Blatt previously losing their jobs.

After the loss to Brooklyn, Kings All-Star forward DeMarcus Cousins said he was not going "to keep blaming these guys in the locker room."

"Energy and effort is a huge part of the game, but I'm not going to keep blaming it on that," Cousins said. "We've got a bigger issue, and we need to figure it out as a team.

"I'd rather keep [problems] in house, but we definitely have a bigger issue than just energy and effort. That can't be the excuse every night. ... We're going to work it out as a team, and hopefully we can fix this."

Karl nearly lost his job in November after a much-publicized blowup with Cousins, but one source insisted Monday that the dispute was "the result of frustration over a lack of coaching."

Related Video