Westphal Is First NBA Head Coach Fired
When the Sacramento Kings hired Paul Westphal as their head coach prior to the 2009-10 NBA season they didn’t exactly look for the most qualified candidate. They took the opposite approach, hiring the lowest bidder for the job. That’s not to say that Westphal isn’t a decent coach, but he was more than 12 years removed from a successful stint as a head coach.
When the Kings won 25 games in Westphal’s first season it was written off as a rebuilding year and Westphal was given a pass. When they managed just 24 games last season it was overlooked to a certain degree because star player Tyreke Evans spent much of the season dealing with a plantar injury.
The real head-scratcher came when the Kings opted to draft DeMarcus Cousins in the 2010 NBA draft, as Westphal has never been known as a coach who could deal well with difficult personalities. Cousins is nothing if not a difficult personality.
The latter situation came to a head earlier this week, when Cousins reportedly demanded a trade, though both Cousins and his agent denied the demand later. The Kings insisted the demand was very real, but also said there was no chance they were ready to give up on the very talented Cousins.
As is often the case, when there is a conflict between a coach and a player with star potential, the coach is the one who goes.
The Kings announced on Thursday afternoon that they had fired Westphal, who had coached the team to a 2-5 start, and will replace him with Keith Smart on an interim basis.
Smart may be the better choice anyway, as he has a well-earned reputation as a players’ coach, and also has some experience in dealing with immature players. As the head coach of the Golden State Warriors he had to deal with a young and impetuous Monta Ellis, who became a leader under Smart’s watch. If he can help Cousins move in a similar direction the Kings could improve dramatically over a short period of time.
Westphal departs Sacramento with a 51-120 record after just over two seasons. Smart quided the injury-plagued Warriors to a 36-46 record in his lone season as the head coach.