4:54pm: The Kings have formally announced that they’ve fired Malone and installed Corbin as head coach, though there’s no mention of the word “interim” regarding Corbin in the team’s statement.
“This was an extremely difficult decision, but one we feel is in the best interest of the franchise moving forward,” D’Alessandro said. “Michael made significant contributions to the organization on many levels and helped foster cultural changes that positively impacted our team. We’re thankful for the commitment he exhibited during his time in Sacramento and wish him and his family the very best in the future.”
4:19pm: The team hasn’t issued a formal announcement of the move, but D’Alessandro confirmed that Corbin has replaced Malone as he spoke to reporters in an impromptu press conference that the team is streaming on its website. D’Alessandro refused to answer whether Corbin would hold the job for the rest of the season, as USA Today’s Sam Amick notes (on Twitter).
8:30am: The Kings told coach Michael Malone on Sunday night that they’ve decided to fire him, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. Assistant coach Tyrone Corbin will assume the head coaching job on an interim basis and is likely to serve in that capacity for the rest of the season, Wojnarowski writes, though the team has yet to make any formal announcement of a coaching change. Many around the league strongly believe that Kings GM Pete D’Alessandro will pursue George Karl, with whom he worked in Denver, but any such move probably wouldn’t take place until the offseason, Wojnarowski hears. Still, Corbin is expected to be replaced eventually, according to USA Today’s Sam Amick.
The timing of the news is shocking, coming as it does with DeMarcus Cousins having missed the past nine games with viral meningitis. The Kings (11-13) were 9-6 before Cousins fell ill, and had wins over the Spurs, Clippers and Bulls during that stretch, as Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com points out (Twitter link).
Still, tension between Malone and the Kings brass has been building for the past year, as Wojnarowski details. D’Alessandro and owner Vivek Ranadive want a faster style of play, Wojnarowski writes, as does consultant Chris Mullin, tweets Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee. Mullin, who holds the title of advisor to the chairman, is an influential force within the front office, Amick notes. Management was disappointed with Malone’s player development, game plans and adjustments, a source tells fellow Yahoo! Sports scribe Marc J. Spears (Twitter link). Malone and D’Alessandro didn’t communicate much over the offseason, Amick hears. The front office interviewed candidates for the lead assistant coaching job, but it was Malone who decided to hire Corbin for that role, according to Wojnarowski, who adds that Malone doesn’t believe Corbin attempted to undermine him.
Malone let Ranadive know he was no fan of the Kings’ pursuit of Josh Smith this summer, Wojnarowski reports. Still, Ranadive, who was involved in those talks with the Pistons, and D’Alessandro forged ahead, though Detroit wasn’t biting, as Wojnarowski adds on Twitter.
Karl, who’s been out of coaching since his tenure with the Nuggets ended in the summer of 2013, just weeks after he won the NBA’s Coach of the Year award, is a major fan of Cousins, and the Nuggets attempted to trade for the center during Karl’s time there, The Bee’s Jason Jones tweets.
Wojnarowski identifies Vinny Del Negro as another possible candidate for the job, while Mullin and Mark Jackson are tight, as Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group points out (on Twitter). Still, it’s unclear if the Kings are seriously considering either Del Negro or Jackson.
Ranadive’s first move after assuming ownership of the team in 2013 was to hire Malone, as Jones notes via Twitter, even before D’Alessandro or Mullin came aboard, in a departure from normal convention in which the coach is hired after the management team. Malone, who had been an assistant under Jackson in Golden State before he joined Sacramento, has gone 39-67 in his time with the Kings. Sacramento had given the well-regarded assistant his first NBA coaching job. He’s in the second season of a four-year deal worth approximately $9MM, though the final season is a team option that hasn’t yet been exercised, Amick notes.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.