The NBA world is reeling over the news that Kings coach Mike Malone has been fired after the team’s 11-13 start — a start that was marred by the viral meningitis of center DeMarcus Cousins. This was just Malone’s second season with the Kings, and most would agree that he had done a lot with very little, talent-wise. Now he’s gone, and Ty Corbin is taking over in the interim.
NBA news god Adrian Wojnarowski has the inside scoop on the Kings’ inner turmoil, and his report claims that Malone never had a chance to succeed under GM Pete D’Alessandro and owner Vivek Ranadive. The team’s slow start, regardless of Cousins’ status, gave management the excuse they needed to dump Malone after just 24 games (106 in all). Malone is credited with having built a strong bond with the team’s two best players, Cousins and Rudy Gay.
The decision to halt this progress lays at the feet of Ranadive, who bought the team last year and has since tried to usher in the use of big data and outside-the-box thinking. Most of his decisions — outside of hiring Malone in the first place — have blown up in his face. Woj himself says that “the Kings are still in Sacramento, but so is the dysfunction” despite the departure of the previous owners, the Maloofs.
Yes, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard Ranadive’s name mentioned in conjunction with “big mistake.” Here are the seven dumbest things he’s done since buying the Kings:
Hiring a general manager after hiring a coach.
In what most consider a “rookie move” on Ranadive’s part, he hired Malone two weeks before bringing on Pete D’Alessandro. As Woj writes, “D’Alessandro and Malone had no history together, no trust and, ultimately, no chance together.” You’ll want your head coach and your GM to agree on a vision for the team, and it’s been clear from the jump that the two don’t see eye to eye. That was a recipe for disaster which ended with Malone’s firing. (Photo via YouTube)
Putting out feelers for Josh Smith, who is crappy.
Woj credits the team’s interest in Pistons forward Josh Smith for the increasingly strained tensions between Malone and management over the summer. Smith is considered to have one of the worst contracts in the league, and yet the Kings wanted him alongside Cousins for reasons that aren’t exactly clear. Even thinking about Smith — who is owed $13.5 million a year for the next three seasons — is lunacy and demonstrates a clear lack of understanding in how constructing a good team works.
Pressuring management into taking Nik Stauskas in the 2014 Draft.
Don’t get me wrong — Nik Stauskas is… fine. But the Kings just drafted a shooting guard (Ben McLemore) the year before and had depth at the position. Rather than filling any number of holes (Elfrid Payton at the point, Noah Vonleh at power forward), the team doubled down on lithe shooting guards and now have Stauskas, who averages 4.2 points per game in just over 13 minutes. From Grantland’s behind-the-scenes look at the Kings’ war room, it’s clear that Ranadive’s will won out over the safer, smarter pick of Payton. (Photo via Getty)
Trying to make Sim Bhullar into a thing.
Sim Bhullar is an enormous dude that Ranadive wanted to make into the Indian Yao Ming. But despite being 7’5”, Bhullar has no true skills as a basketball player, nor the conditioning or athleticism. He’s just big. He went undrafted out of college, signed with the Kings, and was released before the start of this season.
Having ridiculously high expectations for the team this year.
The Kings were 9-6 to start the season, and then they lost their best player, DeMarcus Cousins (he’s due back this week). And yet, at 11-13, the Kings were just a few games back of the 8th seed in the West despite the second-toughest schedule in the league. Considering how stacked the conference is, for the Kings to be at 11-13 is downright shocking. Ranadive’s win-loss expectations were much too high and he gave up on Malone much too quickly. (Photo via Getty)
Sharing tactical experiences about coaching his child’s youth team and thinking that was a good idea.
If it works for high school kids, it should work for the NBA, right? The only reason using a 4-on-5 defensive system — which is actually something Ranadive wants to try — might work on the amateur level is because the players are children and children are not very good. This would be a joke in professional basketball. If the Kings attempt to do this in a game, as is rumored, I will possibly laugh myself into a coma. YOUTH TEAMS AND NBA TEAMS: NOT THE SAME.
Hiring Malone at all. And then firing him.
Mike Malone had a reputation for being tough to work with. If you’re a guy who wants to implement your own vision of the team (and surround yourself with people who agree with you, like D’Alessandro and Chris Mullins), then hire a man who will toe the company line. Malone was never going to bend to playing 4-on-5 or giving Royce White minutes; that there was tension within the organization is hardly a surprise. But once Ranadive committed to Malone, he had to give the guy a shot — or fire him after one season, rather than a third of the way into the next one. Just a poorly handled process from start to finish. (Photo via Getty)
BONUS: Remember when he had the players and cheerleaders and fans wear Google Glass like a bunch of nerds?
For more, check out Zach Lowe’s write-up on this fiasco, which includes wanting to run an up-tempo offense around Cousins. Ha.