Finally, it seems safe to assume one thing — the Kings will be playing in Sacramento next season. While the official vote still looms about a week away, many Kings fans are breathing a sigh of relief and looking toward the composition of next year’s roster.
Another assumption most fans are comfortable making is that Keith Smart will not return as Sacramento’s head coach. With new ownership often comes a desire to rebuild, and that starts at the top. The Kings need a fresh start, and Smart’s shortcomings have been well documented. His return, after a 48-93 record over two years with the team, seems unlikely.
With those two assumptions now made, it’s time to start looking at potential candidates to fill the Kings head coaching position. You have to believe the prospective Sacramento owners already have some idea of the type of coach they want for their franchise, and as always, candidates will come from a variety of different places.
The “Interest Level” (IL) is my own personal interest, with 10 being highly desired and 1 being the second coming of Kenny Natt.
Current Kings Staff
Bobby Jackson (IL: 5)
- We all love Bobby J, but even he would likely agree that he needs more seasoning.
Jim Eyen (IL: 4)
- Eyen, who has worked under Pat Riley and Mike Dunleavy, seems best suited for the #1 assistant role somewhere.
Clifford Ray and Alex English (IL: 2)
- Respect both coaches’ contributuons, but each is a “position” coach, not a top dog.
Current NBA Coaches
Lionel Hollins (IL: 9)
- As the Grizzlies progress further in the playoffs, stealing Hollins, who is not under contract past this year, seems more improbable. But Hollins commitment to defense and ability to manage/develop a team are huge attractions.
Rick Adelman (IL: 7)
- Retirement is an option for the beloved former Kings coach. With new management in Minnesota, his dismissal is also possible, though Flip Saunders has given him a vote of confidence. But if he’s free, Adelman would be a veteran coach who would demand respect and accountability in the Kings locker room.
Vinny Del Negro (IL: 5)
- VDN, the former Kings guard, may be a casualty of the Clippers poor finish. Despite a career winning record over five seasons with LAC/CHI, Del Negro just doesn’t scream “commander” and he hasn’t seen eye-to-eye with many players on his teams.
Mike Malone (IL: 8)
- The Warriors top assistant is all the buzz right now. In many experts’ eyes, Malone deserves a lot of credit for the GSW turnaround, and he’s the up-and-coming candidate that you look for when you’re looking for a fresh start. Add in Vivek Ranadive’s Warriors connection, and Malone getting a long look seems possible. The Kings won’t be alone in their pursuit, though.
Brian Shaw (IL: 7)
- Shaw has seemingly been primed for a head coaching job for a few years now. He assisted under Phil Jackson, previously interviewed for the Kings job (Theus got it) and has turned down jobs because he didn’t feel they were right for him. He seems ready.
Mike Budenholzer (IL: 6)
- The top assistant to Gregg Popovich for five years must be doing something right, and he’s certainly learning under one of the best of all time. The Pistons have already expressed interest in Budenholzer.
Kelvin Sampson (IL: 6)
- Known more for his college career, Sampson has been paying his NBA dues as an assistant since 2008. The 57-year-old is seen as head coach material by many and his college experience lends itself to him developing young talent.
Elston Turner (IL: 5)
- The former Kings assistant under Adelman has been waiting for a top job for years. But time may be running out. Turner was always a respectable pro while in Sacramento and seems like a strong leader who could command a roster.
Mario Elie (IL: 4)
- Elie, a former Kings assistant now in New Jersey, was a tough customer on the court and the thought is that would translate to his coaching. But it’s a question as to whether he’s ready for the top spot.
Patrick Ewing (IL: 4)
- Ewing has 10 years of assistant experience, but sat out this season after being let go with Stan Van Gundy. He would certainly help DeMarcus Cousins’ development but not sure about managing a full team.
Other Assistant Candidates
- J.B. Bickerstaff, Nate Tibbetts, Pete Myers, David Fizdale, Sam Cassell, Dan Majerle, Rex Kalamian, Jeff Hornacek
Byron Scott (IL: 8)
- He has experience, Sacramento ties (former assistant) and a successful track record. Injuries and youth did him in in Cleveland, but Scott is still a respected candidate.
Phil Jackson (IL: 7)
- Oooh, the intrigue. Jackson would be one helluva statement by the new ownership. His fit and interest/ability to handle the rigors of a full season make me pause. But hell, even one year would seem to benefit this immature roster.
Jerry Sloan (IL: 6)
- You can’t help but respect a veteran like Sloan. But he’s another guy where the fit with a young roster could be questioned.
Nate McMillan (IL: 6)
- The irony of hiring the former Sonics guard aside, McMillan is still young yet has enjoyed five playoff appearances over his head coaching career. His firing in Portland seemed abrupt and another chance may be on the horizon.
Terry Porter (IL: 4)
- He’s got Sacramento ties as well, as a former assistant, but the Kings can seemingly do better than a guy who hasn’t stuck more than two years in his two NBA stops.
Stan Van Gundy (IL: 3)
- SVG turned the Kings down once. Not worth the money he’d require, in my opinion.
Other Retread Candidates
- Paul Silas, Scott Skiles, PJ Carlesimo, Don Nelson, Lawrence Frank, Sam Mitchell, Mo Cheeks, Jeff Van Gundy, Jim O’Brien, Marc Iavaroni, Mike Dunleavy, Mike Fratello, Michael Curry, Jay Triano, Alvin Gentry
Shaka Smart (IL: 8)
- One Smart to another…not likely. While Shaka is perhaps the hottest name at the college level, he seems content at VCU for now. Would be a fun, young coach for the Kings, though.
Brad Stevens (IL: 7)
- The Butler coach is a great young mind. Maybe not NBA ready or even interested, but he’d be a young, motivating coach who could grow with the team.
Billy Donovan (IL: 6)
- He flirted with the NBA before; could he be ready to go now? The 47-year-old has two NCAA championships to his name.
John Calipari (IL: 6)
- Calipari watches every year as his players leave after just one season. Does that convince him to leave the college ranks? He’s got ties to Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson.
Tom Izzo (IL: 5)
- Another guy who has been wooed by the NBA before. Izzo develops young talent but would command a pretty penny to make the leap to the pros.
Sean Miller (IL: 4)
- The young U of Arizona coach is a winner. An intriguing longshot.
Fred Hoiberg (IL: 4)
- Hoiberg has been mentioned as a possible NBA coaching candidate despite being at unheralded Iowa State. Hoiberg has experience in an NBA front office but has just three college seasons of head coaching to his name.
* – Fully aware that some (most/all?) of these guys may not be in play.