For those of you who had Mike D’Antoni in the first coach to be fired pool, we have some bad news.
Sacramento Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof pulled a fast one today, canning coach Paul Westphal just seven games into the season. Keith Smart will coach the team tonight against the Milwaukee Bucks, who will be without Andrew Bogut again (he is in Australia dealing with a personal matter and won’t return until next week.)
Westphal went 51-120 in his two-plus seasons. His dismissal comes four days after he feuded with DeMarcus Cousins and told him to stay away from the team for one game, saying the young center had demanded a trade. Kings GM Geoff Petrie and Joe Maloof said they supported Westphal’s decision, but also said they would not trade Cousins.
Here is a roundup from around the Web about what is being said about the firing:
From Zach Lowe of SI.com: “(Tyreke) Evans called out Westphal last week, saying “nobody really knows what to do” in Westphal’s offense, which Evans characterized as “just pass, cut.” Evans still hasn’t found his game, even though he’s recovered from the plantar fasciitis that robbed him of his explosiveness last season. He’s shooting poorly, hasn’t developed his jumper and has seen his assist numbers drop as the Kings have divided ball-handling duties among him, Thornton, Salmons and Jimmer Fredette. The Kings have been running simplistic stuff, one reason their offense ranks 26th in points per possession — one spot better than their swiss-cheese defense. Evans will bring up the ball, toss it to Thornton on the wing, cut to the corner and watch Thornton isolate or run a pick-and-roll. As that unfolds, Evans will rotate back to the top and be ready to receive the ball if the initial action fails to produce a shot. Repeat the same hum-drum stuff on the next 90 possessions, mixing up the names so that everyone gets a turn and adding a bunch of Cousins post-ups, and you’ve basically got Sacramento’s offense. Any NBA team can defend that. … The Kings have assisted on just 41.7 percent of their baskets, per Hoopdata. No team since the ABA-NBA merger has finished a season with an assist rate lower than about 46.5 percent, per Hoopdata and Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus. Blame whatever and whomever you’d like, but it’s a number like that represents a top-to-bottom organizational failure. The Kings don’t have an above-average distributor on their roster, so they’re running a simplistic offense without a primary distributor or even clear-cut roles. Will interim coach Keith Smart do any better? It will be interesting to watch. He’s a defense-first coach, a former guard who will push his young guards hard to be better on that end. And that’s good, because any young guard needs that kind of repetitive instruction. Thornton and Fredette are young and learning, and the team has inexcusably surrendered more fast-break points per game than anyone but the Timberwolves.
From Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee, in a live chat earlier today: “This all came down pretty quickly, which probably means Geoff Petrie and the Maloofs are still studying their alternatives. They can go one of two ways here – give the job to assistant Keith Smart on an interim basis for the remainder of the season or try to make a big strike with one of the established coaches available. The list of the latter is fairly impressive: Jerry Sloan, Larry Brown, Don Nelson and Phil Jackson, though it sounds like Phil wants to take off a year. Sloan would seem like an obvious choice here. I am hearing he wants to coach again, likes some of the Kings’ talent, and likes coaching in small markets.