FEBRUARY 17TH: The team has followed with a formal announcement of Karl’s hiring after acknowledging the agreement earlier.
“We’re fortunate to be taking a step towards returning this franchise to prominence with one of the best coaches in basketball on our sideline,” D’Alessandro said in the statement. “George knows how to win, as evidenced by a lifetime track record of success and ability to maintain consistency throughout his three decades in the game. We’re excited to welcome him to Sacramento.”
FEBRUARY 12TH: The Kings have acknowledged that they’ve reached an agreement in principle with George Karl for their head coaching position, as the team announced in a statement. Sacramento has reassigned Tyrone Corbin, who had occupied the position since the Kings fired Michael Malone in December, the team also announced. Corbin will serve as an adviser to the front office, the Kings say.
“I have the utmost respect for Tyrone as a coach and person,” D’Alessandro said in the statement regarding Corbin. “He’s a man of great integrity, a consummate professional that managed a difficult situation with class and professionalism. I look forward to continuing to work with Tyrone moving forward.”
D’Alessandro didn’t address Karl in either of the team’s statements. Sources told Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee on Wednesday that Karl had struck a deal to become the team’s next head coach, at about the same time that Bee colleague Ailene Voisin indicated the deal was done (All Twitter links here). Sources later that day insisted to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports that there was no deal as the sides haggled over terms including potential compensation in case of a lockout in 2017 (Twitter link). A source told Antonio Gonzalez of The Associated Press that there was an agreement in principle even though the sides were still negotiating, and Wojnarowski reported early Thursday that the sides had finally struck a deal.
Karl will make his debut when the Kings return from the All-Star break on February 20th, and he’ll receive $1.25MM for the rest of this season, according to Wojnarowski. The contract calls for him to make $3.25MM in 2015/16 and $5MM in each of the final two seasons, with the last year of the deal partially guaranteed for $1.5MM, Wojnarowski hears.
It’s the second coaching change in two months for the Kings, who fired Michael Malone in mid-December. GM Pete D’Alessandro had said that he would keep Corbin, whom the team elevated from assistant coach to the head coaching position upon Malone’s dismissal for the season. The abrupt turnaround alarmed Dan Fegan and Jarinn Akana, the agents for DeMarcus Cousins, though Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported that they weren’t opposed to the idea of bringing Karl aboard. Still, Cousins seemed upset with the turmoil as he spoke with reporters on Sunday, and issued a statement Tuesday saying that he would support Karl but hoped the team would quickly resolve the situation. Still, Jones heard Monday that multiple Kings players would oppose the hiring of Karl.
That same day, owner Vivek Ranadive reportedly gave D’Alessandro the authorization to make whatever coaching move he saw fit. Ranadive wanted to bring in a coach other than Corbin at the time of Malone’s dismissal, but the front office talked him out of it, as Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher reported last month, and the owner asked D’Alessandro to meet with Karl last week, Jones reported within the past couple of days. Still, D’Alessandro and Karl have close ties from their time together with the Nuggets.
Karl has been connected to the Kings job since the time that Malone was fired, and D’Alessandro admitted that he spoke to Karl around that time. Still, he was seemingly a secondary candidate at that point, as Wojnarowski wrote when the team was apparently considering the idea of shifting adviser Chris Mullin to coach, a move that Mullin proved reluctant to make. D’Alessandro denied that a meeting he had with Mullin, Cousins and Mark Jackson, another rumored candidate, had anything to do with the coaching position, and Jackson apparently had “no chance” at becoming coach, as Aaron Bruski of NBCSports.com reported in December.
Karl publicly campaigned for the Magic coaching job last week, and he’s kept a high profile as talks with the Kings have progressed, which perturbed some, according to Jones. It’s been a back-and-forth process for Karl and the Kings, spurred in part by the Magic’s opening, with opposition reportedly coming from owners who hold minority stakes in the team and negotiations seemingly petering out before picking up steam again. Alvin Gentry, Nate McMillan, Vinny Del Negro and Tom Thibodeau were other names connected to Sacramento’s opening.
Karl has been out of coaching since 2012/13, the 25th season that he spent at least part of as an NBA head coach and the only one in which he won the Coach of the Year award. He’s 63 and twice a cancer survivor, and Ranadive and D’Alessandro have sought assurances about his health. Still, Karl is one of only nine coaches to amass more than 1,000 regular season victories, compiling a record of 1,131-756 with the Cavs, Warriors, SuperSonics, Bucks and Nuggets. The Kings are expected to hire Sixers assistant Vance Walberg, who worked with Karl in Denver, for Karl’s staff, as Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group reported this week.
Corbin departs the coaching job after going 7-21 in his brief time in charge of the Kings. It’s the second time in less than 10 months that an NBA head coaching tenure has ended for Corbin, whom the Jazz elected not to re-sign after last season. The 52-year-old is 119-167 in parts of five seasons as an NBA head coach.
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