Canning a coach 24 games into the season whose team’s recent struggles were the direct result of a franchise player’s absence is bad. Replacing him with an assistant whose last go-round as head man was close to a disaster is worse. But the latest wrinkles concerning Mike Malone’s sudden firing from the Sacramento Kings are still the strongest indication yet that zealous owner Vivek Ranadive is completely in over his head. According to Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, Sacramento will play a “semblance” of the laughable 4-on-5 strategy championed by Ranadive under interim coach Ty Corbin.
Cherry-picking likely isn’t the only thing Ranadive has charged Corbin with implementing. Given the interaction with Malone that Wojnarowksi details, the Kings seem bound to try other zany schematic stunts now that the incumbent is out of the picture.
The owner played the part of a fantasy league owner, treating the Kings like a science experiment. He shared tactical experiences with Malone about coaching his child’s youth team, and pressed him to consider playing four-on-five defense, leaking out a defender for cherry-picking baskets. Some semblance of that strategy is expected to be employed with Corbin now, a source told Yahoo Sports.
Like everyone else, we panned Ranadive’s 4-on-5 ambition when it was first reported in late October. We were even bold enough to proclaim, “Don’t ever expect to see Sacramento exercise such a plan.” Let’s just say we wouldn’t have been so confident if we’d known that Ranadive would have the gumption to fire Malone under these circumstances.
Wojnarowski’s story also notes that the Kings had long been waiting to seize on-court struggles as means for firing Malone. Why they didn’t do so during the summer, though, is still anyone’s guess:
After Malone’s first season, there were discussions about letting him go. Those died down, but it was clear Malone would start this season on notice, and he did…
All around the organization, everyone agrees: The Kings were waiting for this opportunity, and pounced with the losing streak. “They should’ve done this in the summer, and brought in the coach and style that they wanted,” one league official close to [Pete] D’Alessandro and Malone told Yahoo Sports.
It’s no secret that Ranadive and D’Alessandro long for uptempo basketball. Sacramento’s early 2000s heyday was marked by a frenetic pace and wildly enjoyable playmaking, and D’Alessandro’s previous gig was with George Karl’s go-go Denver Nuggets.
The Kings ranked 24th in pace under Malone. And while that obviously wasn’t management’s preferred style, it was working.
Sacramento was 9-6 before Boogie went out on November 27, playing league-average offense and defense. With Cousins developing into a MVP candidate, Rudy Gay playing the best ball of his career, Ben McLemore emerging, and a starting group that ranked among basketball’s best, there was legitimate reason to believe that the Kings would stay afloat in the Western Conference playoff race.
It’s gone now, and so is a portion of the surprising progress made by cogs of the Kings’ roster. And for what? To run the oft-lumbering Cousins ragged while playing a needlessly faster brand of basketball? To try out a 4-on-5 strategy that’s most often used in bad pickup games? To placate an overbearing owner’s sense of influence?
The Kings were on the right track, and they’ve suddenly veered far off it. And though all current momentum suggests this optimism an impossibility, let’s hope Ranadive knows what he’s doing. Cousins, his teammates, and the loyal fans in Sacramento deserve better than they got for so long from the Maloof Brothers, and certainly what it seems they’re most likely to get from Vivek now.
What do you think?
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