Overreaching For the Crown: The Kings Show Lack of Understanding With Mike Malone Firing by Nigel Broadnax

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DeMarcus Cousins and his Sacramento Kings teammates found out the firing of head coach Mike Malone via Twitter. 

Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported in the early hours of the morning, that the Sacramento Kings fired head coach Mike Malone 24 games into his second season. The first coaching termination of the season is a baffling one to say the least, as the Kings are only two games under .500 (11-13) in the brutal Western Conference. Sacramento is also only a half-game behind the eighth-seeded Phoenix Suns at the moment.

One would think that an incident or altercation between Malone and management sparked the decision. However, Woj also reported that the team playing below ownership’s “expectations” was the motivation behind the personnel change.

If this was all about a bad working relationshipand it would have had to be really bad for this to make any sense then this would be somewhat understandable.

But Malone is now without a job because this team hasn’t met expectations?

The same team that hasn’t made the playoffs the last eight seasons? The same team that hasn’t cracked a winning percentage higher than .350 the last six seasons?

Yeah, that team apparently. Also the same team that was on pace to break that streak of horrid winning rates and potentially make the playoffs this year under Malone.

Another confusing detail in all of this is that DeMarcus Cousins has missed the last nine games with a viral infection. The fifth-year center has had a remarkable season through the 15 games he has played, showing more maturity than he has in his initial years. On the season he’s averaging 23.5 points, 12.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists on 51% shooting.

Those are hard numbers to replace, so it’s easy to see how the Kings have struggled in his absence. However, they have remained fairly competitive in the last two weeks and change. Only one of their losses over that stretch has come by double digits.

Malone has kept this team fighting without one of the NBA’s emerging stars in the lineup. Despite ownership’s dislike of his progress in player development, he was coaching the likes of Darren Collison and Rudy Gay into playing perhaps the best basketball of their careers and Ben McLemore to an improved sophomore season.

All of these facts were unable to protect Malone from unemployment. He’s a young coach who looked to be improving with each ounce of experience he gained, and gave the Kings some structure they haven’t had in about a decade.

This situation has parallels to the firing of Mark Jackson by the Golden State Warriors back in May. Many felt that this was a bad move considering the fair amount of success he led the team to. Steve Kerr was hired as his replacement, and now the Warriors are off to their best start in franchise history.

Some could argue that the Kings should get some benefit of the doubt based off of Golden State’s recent model of progress.

The difference between the situations is that Jackson had three seasons to prove himself and the team’s improvement stalled. Malone, on the other hand, didn’t even get a season and a half and still had his team on an upward trend. He wasn’t give as equal a chance.

Led by Vivek Ranadivé, the Kings ownership has pulled the plug on the stability that was on the sidelines.

Ranadivé has been the majority owner of the franchise for more than a year and a half. In his tenure he has displayed a strong initiative to improve the organization. He’s been full of eagerness and ideas with winning heavy on his mind.

He has, however, not displayed an understanding of how things work in the NBA. His success with other business ventures that have made him wealthy has clouded his perception of what it takes to run a professional basketball team. He even has played around with the gimmicky idea of playing a four-on-five defense in order to have a fifth player on the other end of the floor for easy points  (this practice is known as “cherry picking” on the playgrounds, and is frowned upon in that setting).

Running an NBA team the right way requires more than moving a couple pieces around and implementing ideas to completely rectify a team with a built up losing culture. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it often doesn’t even always happen in 18 months. Time and patience are needed to see the desired results.

Ranadivé’s unreasonably high expectations echo the previous foreign majority owner in the NBA.

Almost five years ago, Mikhail Prokhorov purchased the New Jersey Nets and assumed the ownership position in dramatic fashion.

He dished out many quotes of confidence in the team, moved the franchise into New York City’s borough of Brooklyn and threw around tons of money to acquire big-name players. He thought doing it fast and vibrantly was the right way to go.

Today, the Nets are a mediocre team with a bleak future that doesn’t include many first round draft picks over the next few years. The picks were traded away in attempts to win ASAP. They have also won just a single playoff series since Prokhorov has been in charge.

Instead of having a long-term plan in place, the front office in Sacramento was expecting an immediate jump to the top. Now they have made a brash decision on the fly, placing the underwhelming Ty Corbin at the head of the bench as interim coach with no concrete plans to hire a more permanent replacement.

The previous owners of the Kings, the notorious Maloof brothers, had fallen completely out of favor with the fan base when they sold their shares. Ranadivé was seen as a savior at the time, and appeared to be rescuing the franchise from the incompetent ownership it had been subject to.

But this latest move makes us begin to wonder:..

Is his ownership any less incompetent?

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