Last week, I wrote a story about the first important move for the Sacramento Kings over the offseason. The team’s ownership details needed to be sorted, which looks like it is happening, as the first order of business. The next most important move was the, in my opinion, the new owners needed to make a decision about coach Keith Smart.
One of the only things keeping Smart on the payroll at the moment is the fact that the final determination as to the ownership of the franchise has yet to be finalized. According to the Sacramento Bee, the NBA Board of Governors is set to vote on the issue May 15. The relocation committee, made up of seven of the league’s 30 owners, voted 7-0 against the move to Seattle. The final vote of all 30 owners, which requires a majority of 16 in order to move the franchise, will be final and binding on May 15. There is not going to be any player or front-office decisions made until the ownership and location of the franchise is set in stone.
One thing that is set in stone is the fact that Smart, over the last two seasons, has a record of 48-93 (.340) with the Kings. His overall coaching record is not much better at 93-170 (.354) over four seasons. In addition to his overall record, as I pointed out last week, the Kings finished this past season with an abysmal month of April, going 1-7 (.125). Seemingly, the chances of Smart returning to the sidelines for the Kings, regardless of who owns the team, are about as slim as Manute Bol’s forearms.
The feeling that Smart will be let go by the new owners of the Kings is apparently, according to ESPN.com, a presumption that is permeating throughout the league. The uninspired play, inability to implement a consistently successful offensive scheme, as well as well-documented issues molding the team’s only superstar, DeMarcus Cousins, are all some of the factors that make it even harder to ignore the won-lost records.
To be fair, it is not as though Smart has been dealt a great hand over the past two years. He had to deal with, as a first-year coach, a shortened season due to a lockout in 2011-12. For a new coach, he was automatically at a disadvantage to the other coaches in the league that were in a position to coach familiar faces. To have a shortened preseason and a compressed season, it made it very difficult for virtually any new head coach in the league to implement their philosophies.
To add insult to injury, heading into the 2012-13 season, Smart had to not only deal with many fans calling for his resignation already, he had to deal with the initial rumors of a sale and move to Seattle. That dark cloud only got more and more dense as the season wore on and still has yet to be decided. As the head coach, and the face of the program, the Maloofs essentially left Smart out to dry in front of the media to deal with the issue.
The DeMarcus Cousins situation is also not necessarily Smart’s fault. Cousins has had a hard time getting along with every coach that he has had since high school. He is a difficult person to deal with and that certainly has very little to do with Keith Smart. It does, however, make for a situation where Smart, or any head coach for that matter, needs to manage a personality like Cousins and create an atmosphere of success and accountability. This is where Smart has failed as it pertains to Cousins.
In the end, however, it is about wins and losses and it is about creating an atmosphere of respect and success. This has not happened and the raw numbers are enough to put Smart on the chopping block. I would assume that, by the end of May, the direction of the franchise from ownership to front office and head coach will all have undergone an expensive facelift.