It’s Time to Move on from Karl in Sacramento

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At 30-46 this season, and 41-65 in his one-and-a-half season run so far as the head man of the Sacramento Kings, it is obvious that the Kings organization is in dire need of a change as they head into the Golden One Center in Downtown Sacramento next year. Yes, Karl has delivered on the “up-tempo” philosophy that majority shareholder Vivek Ranadive wanted when he fired Michael Malone early last season. The Kings rank No. 1 in the NBA in pace at 100 possessions per 48 minutes, and rank No. 3 in scoring offense at 106.9 ppg. That being said, Karl’s “philosophy” has come at a cost to other categories, as they rank last in scoring defense (109.1 points allowed per game), 27th in effective field goal percentage defense (52.2 percent allowed) and 21st in defensive rating (108.3 points allowed per 100 possessions). Furthermore, though the Kings score at a high rate, it hasn’t come in necessarily the most efficient manner, as the Kings rank 12th in offensive rating (106.1 points scored per 100 possessions) and 27th in turnover percentage (14.2 percent). Yes, the Kings have been entertaining on the court when it comes to generating points, but it hasn’t resulted in much improvement in the Win-Loss column, disappointing considering many Kings fans had hopes that they would compete for a playoff spot this season after big free agent acquisitions such as Rajon Rondo, Marco Belinelli and Kosta Koufos.

That being said, it’s not just the numbers and the on-court product that merit Karl being showed the door by Kings management. In fact, if we just based Karl’s tenure on what I listed above, I think most Kings fans would be okay with him coming back for a second full season in 2016-2017, especially considering these numbers are probably the best we have seen from a Kings coach in the Post-Rick Adelman era. Unfortunately, off the court, both in the locker room and the media, Karl has been an unmitigated disaster in his relationships with everyone in the organization, from players to assistant coaches to even front office members. Let’s take a look at the transgressions Karl has committed this year that warrant him being fired by season’s end at the very latest.

  • In the Summer off-season, rumors spread that George Karl called other teams to gauge Cousins’ value and see if teams were interested in negotiating a deal for the All-Star center and Kings franchise player. Karl did not have approval to do this of course from management or ownership or even Cousins himself. Things tipped to the point that Ranadive thought about firing Karl after news broke out about the incident and considered replacing him with John Calipari. Karl stayed however (after Cal expressed no interest in the Kings or any NBA job) and this led to the famous awkward handshake during Summer League between Boogie and Karl that was a forecast of the chaos that was about to occur in 2015-2016.
  • After scrapping their way to a 20-23 start with a brief period in the 8th spot in the Western Conference playoff race, the Kings lost eight of their next nine games before the All-Star break and rumors swirled wildly that the Kings were going to fire and have a new head coach after the All-Star break. However, due to ownership’s financial concerns, the Kings decided to keep Karl and “work with him” until to the end of the season at least. The decision hasn’t seemed to have much of an effect, as the Kings have been 8-15 after the All-Star break.
  • The Kings have displayed a lack of discipline on the court under Karl, as his lack of control as a coach has resulted in the Kings being one of the most T’d up teams in the league. The Kings are seventh in the league in total technical fouls, but the Kings are tied for third in player technicals (34) and are tied for first in coach technicals (8). Of course, there is a debate on how much of an effect this has in the W-L column. For example, the Clippers are in the playoff hunt despite being the most T’d up team in the league, but the Phoenix Suns are fourth in total technical fouls and rank near the bottom of the Western Conference. Furthermore, the Spurs are in last when it comes to technical fouls, but the third-to-last team are the Sixers, who are you know…going through the “process”. So it just goes to show that less or more technical fouls don’t necessarily directly relate to winning. That being said, Karl’s veteran presence was supposed to be an improvement over incumbent Ty Corbin, who was let go because many felt he had no control over the roster. Well…Karl, as evidenced by all the techs, hasn’t improve upon his predecessor, and he has cost a hell of a lot more money to boot.
  •  Karl has repeatedly buried younger players on this Kings roster in favor of veterans, even after the Kings played themselves out of playoff contention. Ben McLemore, Seth Curry (more on this in the next bullet point) and Willy Cauley-Stein have seen wild shifts in playing times, as they often have been bumped out of the rotation in favor of veterans like Marco Belinelli, Kosta Koufos and Quincy Acy (Acy and Koufos have been understandable, as Acy has earned more minutes due to effort and Koufos has been what Kings fans expected him to be: a defensive oriented player with an mediocre offensive game; Belinelli though has had one of his worst seasons ever though, as evidenced by his 9.5 PER and career-low 38.6 FG percentage). The only reason Curry and Cauley-Stein have been in more (and thus, been more productive) is due to injuries and suspensions by veterans on the team during this home stretch of the season. If Belinelli was healthy, I would bet that Karl would be having Curry (and to an extent McLemore, though he has had injury issues of his own) riding the bench, much to the chagrin of the fans and ownership, and to the detriment of the young King’s future and development.
  • Speaking of Curry, nobody has handled Curry’s rise in the past couple of weeks more poorly or immaturely than Karl. The way he has “backhandedly complimented” the first-year Kings player and brother of league MVP Stephen is either sadistic in an old-school Byron Scott “this is how I develop youngsters” way (which has proven to NOT be successful in any place he has coached, especially LA…which as a Kings fan, I’m not complaining about) or is a defense mechanism to deflect the real issue which is “why did he bury him on the bench for most of the season?” Despite Curry proving to be a valuable asset during this stretch run, replacing the injured Belinelli and McLemore in the starting lineup, Karl has refused to give the youngster much credit. Karl noted publicly to the media that Curry would only be in the league “a couple of more years” and also implied that Curry wouldn’t be seen as such an asset if he had a different last name. This has caused an uprising of sorts, as the “snake” emoji that has been synonymous with Karl’s description from former (and current) players reared its head again with Curry posting it on twitter. And furthermore, Cousins interrupted a Curry interview the day after Karl’s comments to make a jab at Karl’s “career length” comment about Curry. No matter what Karl’s true feelings are about Curry or other Kings players, Karl has showed an amazingly lack of tact when it comes to sharing his opinions with the media, which has caused inner locker room turmoil between players and the coaching staff.
  • And lastly, the coaching staff under Karl has been an utter disaster, as nobody seems to trust anyone on staff. This off-season, the Kings got some notoriety when they decided to hire Nancy Lieberman as an assistant this summer. While she is not the first (the Spurs beat the Kings to the punch by hiring Becky Hammon, who coached the Spurs to a Summer League title), it was a sign of some good progressive movement as an organization after years of stagnation under the Maloofs (mostly due to the fact that THEY DIDNT HAVE ANY MONEY). Unfortunately, the hire seemed to come from above Karl (most likely an ownership decision) and reports not only circulated that Karl exiled Lieberman from the coaching staff due to his suspicions that she was a confidante for Ranadive, but that inner coaching turmoil concerning her and the staff was a reason in the firing of Vance Walberg, who was one of Karl’s “hires” from his days in Denver.

As you can see, this list is comprehensive and ridiculous. Not even the poorest of NBA coaches could have compiled a list this extensive in a one-and-a-half year campaign, but Karl managed to do so. With Karl in charge, the Kings have been a “three ring circus” and he has not really done anything to mitigate or lessen the negative attention that has plagued the Kings all season long. I mean, just go to Deadspin and search “Sacramento Kings” and it’s crazy ridiculous the kind of articles that post up. While it’s nice that Sacramento, which usually ranks in “NBA Media Attention” circles somewhere between Milwaukee and Charlotte, has garnered more attention than usual this season, it would have been nice if the Kings were getting some attention in the media regarding a possible playoff run or Cousins’ turning into one of the better post players in the NBA rather than the tire fire that has been their organizational chemistry.

And what makes this all the worse is despite this utter cluster fuck this organization has been the past season, despite all this turmoil, bickering and lack of management, Karl is still sitting on the bench completely cool and without a care in the world. And that’s the nail in the coffin when it comes to Karl’s future: he doesn’t really give a shit about how this team performs or whether it is set up for long-term success. As long as Karl gets paid, he could care less what happens. I seriously doubt he does anything at practice but show up, have a seat on the bench while the team shoots around or assistants work one-on-one, open up to Aliene Voison’s column in the Sac Bee sports section while downing a medium Peet’s Iced Mocha, and snicker as she argues that Karl is more indispensable to this Kings’ organization than Boogie, a 2-time All-Star and a good candidate to be the starting center on Team USA this Summer.  Karl has not just produced a team that is ill-suited for his style (watch Cousins huff and puff down the court and you can understand why the Kings struggle defensively; the “high-octane” tempo is just not suited for him considering the minutes they need him to play), but foster a “McCarthey-esque” culture of paranoia within the locker room. He has conned ownership and fans into thinking he really cares about the Kings’ future when he doesn’t, just like he did in Denver, Milwaukee and Seattle in his previous head coaching stops. Ask any Nuggets, Bucks or Sonics fan or even former player. In no way shape or form are they clamoring for Karl to lead their teams again. (Well…I guess that really doesn’t count for Seattle since they no longer have a team…so they’ll look back fondly on that team of his simply because that’s all they got…you think they really loved the Bob Hill or Paul Westphal era?)

It’s about time the Sacramento organization and fanbase do the same with Karl. Yes, the organization will have to pay quite a bit to buy him out. Yes, it may result in putting him in a front office organization where he probably will just be sitting in the VIP box of the Golden One Center chewing a cigar and counting his money while he laughs as the Kings rebuild through the crater he left behind. And yes, it sucks that unlike in Seattle, Denver or Milwaukee, the Kings did not get at least one good “playoff” run or season during Karl’s tenure.

But, it’s time to move on. On March 30, the Kings signed Vlade Divac to an extension as GM and VP of Basketball Operations and there are reports that former Pacers executive David Morway will be joining him in making decisions in the front office. Vlade has a chance to rectify all the negative press he got from last off-season by making one simple decision: getting rid of Karl and finding a new head coach for this Kings organization.

Unlike Malone’s firing, there won’t be a lot of resistance or uproar about such a decision. If Vlade wants to justify his extension, relieving Karl of his duties after his disastrous one-and-a-half year stint will be the perfect way to start year two of his front office campaign. The Kings will be better in the long-run and will be able to truly build a roster that can compete long-term in the future, and not exist just to stroke the ego of a coach who is trying to milk wins during his last moments in the sun.

Let’s not be Indiana Jones here (snake reference for those who may not get it) and be afraid of something we know is bad for our organization, but won’t do anything about due to “technicalities” or “finances” or “fear of the unknown”. We’ll be all right post-Karl.

Bucks and Nuggets fans and players can attest to this. They know we’ll be “better off” with him “gone”.