SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The Sacramento Kings fired coach George Karl on Thursday after his first full season with the team, setting the stage for the team to hire its ninth coach since last making the playoffs in 2006.
General manager Vlade Divac announced the move a day after the Kings wrapped up another disappointing season with a 33-49 record. Karl was given a four-year contract when he was hired in February 2015 to replace Tyrone Corbin but never worked out and finished with a 44-68 mark.
“I feel bad doing this,” Divac said. “But after what we experienced this year I thought we could do better and try to improve our team. I think George did a great job this year. But there was a part where there was a disconnect with the plays and the players so I made a decision to let him go.”
Karl was unable to improve the team’s defense, had frequent run-ins with star center DeMarcus Cousins and faced questions about his status as far back as November. His fate was officially determined Thursday, leaving the Kings to search for a new coach to lead them into their new downtown arena slated to open next season.
Karl is the eighth coach in Sacramento since the team last went to the playoffs in 2006 under Rick Adelman. Sacramento and Minnesota are the only teams not to go to the playoffs in that span and the Timberwolves are the only team with more losses than the Kings the past 10 seasons.
“There’s no reason to blame George for all our failures this year,” Divac said. “It’s a lot of different stuff from me and the players. Just being in charge I felt like this is the first step in doing something I want to make sure we’re on the same page.”
The Kings have struggled for any stability, even after Vivek Ranadive bought the team from the Maloof family following the 2012-13 season and kept the franchise in Sacramento.
Mike Malone was fired 24 games into his second season as coach despite a close relationship with Cousins and some improvement on the court. Corbin took over in December 2014 but lasted just two months before the team turned to the veteran Karl, who has the fifth-most wins all-time with a record of 1,175-824.
But the man that hired Karl, former general manager Pete D’Alessandro, was replaced by Divac a few months after the move. Divac fired one of Karl’s assistants, Vance Walberg, midway through this season and then parted ways with Karl.
While the Kings won 30 games this season for the first time since 2007-08, they once again missed the playoffs as Karl failed to fix the problems on the court. The defense has once again been a major problem with the team allowing a league-worst 109.1 points per game and giving up an NBA-record 839 3-pointers.
Then there were the issues between Karl and Cousins that boiled over last month when Cousins was suspended for one game by the team for yelling at Karl during a timeout huddle.
“While I would have loved to continue on this journey, I am very proud of our work and I want to thank Kings management for the opportunity to have coached this exciting team with such a bright future,” Karl said in a statement. “It’s my heartfelt feeling that the magnificent new arena will be hosting many playoff runs and an eventual championship, which the Sacramento fans, some of the most loyal and supportive people I’ve ever known in my many years in the NBA, very much deserve. With a profound humility, moving forward, I wish nothing but the best for this franchise and its players.”
Divac now will look for a new coach who can get the best out of the immensely talented but sometimes difficult Cousins, who has had five coaches in his six seasons in the NBA. Cousins is coming off his most productive season, averaging a career-high 26.9 points per game, along with 11.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists.
“I feel our roster is talented, a playoff team, and we underachieved this year,” Divac said. “I feel bad about this season but not disappointed. I’m in a position to do what I think is best for the organization. That’s what makes me confident going into next season.”