Did the Kings Make a Mistake Rushing to Hire Mike Brown

Mike Brown of the Sacramento Kings. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Mike Brown of the Sacramento Kings. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

Coaching turnover has been relatively few and far between this NBA postseason The first domino to fall was your Sacramento Kings parting ways with Head Coach Luke Walton back on November 21, 2021. The move came following a disappointing 6-11 start to the season. Of course, firing a coach just 17 games into a season displays such little confidence in the individual that it poses the question: “why was the coach retained the season prior?” But that is a discussion for another time.

The next domino to fall was the Los Angeles Lakers dismissing Head Coach Frank Vogel, just 24 hours after the team’s season finale. Vogel’s firing came after a season of almost unprecedented disappointment as the Lakers, the favorite of many pundits and casinos to at least come out of the Western Conference, failed to make the playoffs (and play-in) with a dismal 33-49 record.

The most shocking firing came on April 22, when the Charlotte Hornets parted ways with Head Coach James Borrego, nine days after his team fell short in their play-in matchup vs the Atlanta Hawks. The move came as a surprise to many as Borrego’s young Hornets squad seemed to be on the upswing, playing an entertaining brand of basketball. Team Owner Michael Jordan and General Manager Mitch Kupchak disagreed, deciding to go in another direction.

However, the largest domino was still yet to fall. Sources from around the league were intimating that this would likely be the “last dance” of the current incarnation of the Utah Jazz. The Jazz have had a core comprised of Head Coach Quinn Snyder, All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell and All-NBA center Rudy Gobert for the past several years. A string of fantastic regular seasons have been followed by underwhelming (and tactically similar) postseason shortcomings. This meant that a shakeup could be on the horizon for the Jazz should they fall short again in the 2021-22 playoffs. The introduction of Danny Ainge as the new CEO of Basketball Operations meant the writing was on the wall. Utah would be “blowing it up” this offseason. And like clockwork, the Jazz were unceremoniously dumped out of the first round of the playoffs in six games by the 4th-seeded Dallas Mavericks, despite Luka Doncic missing the first two games in the series. The rumors became reality on June 5, when Quinn Snyder stepped down as HC of the Utah Jazz. The parting was described as “mutual.”

By this point, the Sacramento Kings were already locked in on their new Head Coach, having agreed to a deal with Golden State Warriors Assistant Coach Mike Brown on May 3, just over three weeks after the Kings season ended. Sacramento’s hire came over month before the next vacancy was filled, when the Lakers scooped up Milwaukee Bucks Assistant Coach Darvin Ham. The question should be asked, why did the Kings rush to hire Mike Brown? Was he head and shoulders better than the other candidates interviewed by the team? A list that included; Darvin Ham, Mike D’Antoni, Mark Jackson and Steve Clifford.

More importantly, why was the Kings process accelerated to a point where James Borrego, who may have been an ideal hire, was not even brought in for an interview? Borrego’s Charlotte Hornets made a leap from 33 wins in 2020-21 to 43 wins this past season. The exact type of leap the Kings have been searching for the past decade and a half. Borrego also achieved this in a hotly contested Eastern Conference, where 43 wins was only good enough for the 10th seed, a record seven games better than the Western Conference’s 8th seeded New Orleans Pelicans.

Even more egregious is the fact that the Kings search was completed for nearly a month before Quinn Snyder became available. Over the past five seasons, Snyder’s Jazz finished 5th, 5th, 6th, 1st and 5th in the Western Conference. All while being a small market team, unable to lure premium free agents and staying out of the luxury tax (SOUND FAMILIAR?!).

It would appear, due to the speed of the Kings process, that Mike Brown was identified early on (presumably by ownership) as the first-choice of the franchise to lead the team next season. That is perfectly fine for a franchise to do, but is Mike Brown the caliber of coach, or fit with this team to necessitate such action? Or was his status simply as a key staff member of the Golden State Warriors the deciding factor?

It is well document that Kings Owner

(and the key culprit in the Kings failures the past decade)

Vivek Ranadivé has a fascination with the Warriors. Perhaps this dates back to his time as a minority owner of the Warriors. Come playoff time, he is as routine front row fixture at the Chase Center as Warriors Majority Owner Joe Lacob. More imporantly, Vivek has an affinity for hiring HC’s with close ties to the Warriors organization. With Mike Brown’s hire, three of Vivek’s four Head Coaching hires (including Mike Malone and Luke Walton) come to Sacramento having previously served as an Assistant Coach with the Golden State Warriors the prior season. That is bizarre at best and a lazy hiring practice at worst.

Mike Brown will be under pressure to deliver results this season. As will (even more so) General Manager Monte McNair, who enters the season on the last year of his contract. Ranadivé has already bluntly stated that he wants/expects a “Timberwolves like” jump this upcoming season from the Kings. That would roughly equate to a 52 win season in 2022-23. With minimal cap space, a small trade exception, a mid-level exception and the 4th pick in the draft such a leap is possible, but as the team is currently constructed, thoroughly unrealistic.

Ranadivé may (once again) be going for the quick fix. Which time and time again has proved disastrous for the Kings.

Good luck to Coach Brown!