Culture of Hoops

The Kings Keith “Smart” Decision

By Erik Ong @FantasyHoopla

Scott Skiles was the most recent NBA coach to part ways with his team this season. The Los Angeles Lakers fired Mike Brown to make room for Mike D’Antoni early in the season while the Brooklyn Nets let go of Avery Johnson late last year and are still in search of his permanent replacement. While Skiles’ departure came as a slight surprise to some in the league, it is not uncommon to see teams make such moves to shake things up. Who will be next? Who’s neck might be lying a tad close to the chopping block these days?

The leading candidate would be Keith Smart of the Sacramento Kings. He can’t seem to establish a clearly defined direction for the team, tinkering with lineups, shuffling rotations, and simply not optimizing the talent he has on his roster at times. There already has been an erosion of his leadership base as seen by the verbal altercation he had with the team’s star center, DeMarcus Cousins. In line with that incident, the management showed a lack of trust in their coach by overruling his suspension and reinstating Cousins almost immediately.

An NBA coach needs to be able to manage, inspire, motivate, and guide the talent he has under his wing. While the Kings were able to grab a few convincing wins lately, these can be credited more to Cousins’ dominant performances and less than any changes Smart has been able to institute within the team. Aside from his strained relationship with Cousins, Smart has also been criticized for his choices to go with aging veterans versus developing the young talent that the team possesses. There is also the issue of forging a back court rotation that allows the offense to remain clicking with both Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton getting the necessary minutes and touches in order for them to be productive. Various injuries to those players have derailed opportunities to find a system to get those two players to mesh well, but in spite of that Smart has not shown any real progress as far giving the Kings a clear and concrete direction.

At the end of the day, if a coach cannot maximize the team’s assets and manage them in such a way that the franchise earns those much coveted “ W’s,” it is imperative for the team’s ownership to find someone who can. Stars and wins sell tickets, and ticket sales along with advertisements and sponsorships are what keep teams from falling into the red.

News of the Kings potentially being sold and relocated to Seattle, throws a bit of a monkey wrench into the situation. While at the same time also sheds some light as to possible reason as to why the Maloofs made sure their star asset was made available for “showcasing” as quickly as possible.

The sale of the Kings, depending on its timing can either hasten Smart’s departure or put the move in cold storage. As things stand now, there is no need nor would it be prudent for the franchise’s current owners to find a new coach and put another potentially unwanted contract in their books. On the other hand, if the transaction does go through quickly and smoothly, new management will likely want a new skipper at the helm to steer the floundering team in the right direction.

Regardless, Smart is now coaching on thin ice and may very well be the next NBA coach to lose his job.

Writer at Fantasy Basketball Coaches, where “Guts Make Teams Real”

 Erik Ong is a long-time NBA fan from the Philippines. He has been writing about fantasy basketball since 2007 and has written for sites such as Give Me The Rock, Sports Illustrated, Pippen Ain’t Easy, and FHM. You can follow him on Twitter: @FantasyHoopla.


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