It wasn’t all that long ago the Sacramento Kings were perceived as one of the top teams in the Western conference of the NBA and among the toughest of obstacles for the Los Angeles Lakers, but the franchise has had a long stretch of futility over the past decade. Without a playoff appearance since the 2006-2007 season (a first-round exit), the Kings have had nine different head coaches. After years of disappointment, the Kings hoped to turn things around with a coach who had been a more established success as a head coach than a failure, George Karl, whom the hired on February 12, 2015.
Karl had the itch to get back on an NBA sideline after not being able to work out a contract extension with the Denver Nuggets. The team fired him in the summer of 2013, leaving Karl out of a job for a half a season before being in the supposed right place at the right time for the Kings, who were once again stuck with a record of just 18-34 after firing Mike Malone and Tyrone Corbin. How the Kings handled Corbin at the time was criticized from multiple angles, perhaps deservingly so. Maybe Karl was a good hire, but how the team went about it lacked credibility, which assured the Karl era in Sacramento would get off to as rocky a start as you can imagine.
Agree 100%. Stan Van Gundy blasts Sacramento Kings' handling of Tyrone Corbin while wooing George Karl http://t.co/fMFeMuYmaq
— Newy Scruggs (@newyscruggs) February 12, 2015
ICYMI: #kings leave Tyrone Corbin dangling, players confused while moving toward hiring George Karl: http://t.co/96dgwGJqxi
— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) February 12, 2015
Regardless of how it went down, Karl was the new head coach in Sacramento and it was up to him to show signs of improvement in a short period of time with just 30 games left in the season. The hiring of Karl was praised by many despite how he came to be the head coach. Considering the state of the franchise at the time, it was easy to like the hiring of Karl and have a hope the team would come together, or perhaps that was a blind faith after years of disappointment. George Karl was a guy people knew, so that made it seem like a great move by the struggling Kings.
One of the most staunch Karl-to-Kings advocates was Sacramento Bee columnist Ailene Voisin. On December 20, 2014, she wrote an article titled “Kings need to hire Karl now,” where she campaigned for Sacramento to bring the veteran coach on board.
“Life is about timing, instinct, intuition, seizing opportunity. Same for sports. So given all that has transpired these past few weeks, particularly these past few days, the Kings’ brain trust shouldn’t need a playbook, an analytics crash course or a psych evaluation to make the wise move, the strong move, the obvious move.
“Folks, this is the home run. Fastball, belt-high, middle of the plate. On so many levels, hiring the charismatic Karl immediately makes almost too much sense, is almost too brilliant in its simplicity.”
On February 13, a day after the Kings announced that they had hired Karl, Voisin doubled down.
“So here’s a prediction: The [Demarcus] Cousins/Karl dynamic will be fascinating and fruitful. Karl is a winner. Cousins desperately wants to win. Together, they will initiate the return of the earplugs, the cowbells, the foot-stomping, the spontaneous, prolonged cheering.”
Voisin certainly wasn’t the only one who thought George Karl would do wonders in Sacramento…
.@CoachKarl22 terrific motivator and tactician He must be the best 4 on 5 defensive guru or @SacramentoKings would not have hired him #lol
— Stu Jackson (@StuJackson32) February 12, 2015
.@CoachKarl22 & @boogiecousins will work well together.
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) February 12, 2015
Dickie V seemed very happy for Karl and was eager to see how it would all work out.
George Karl finally will give HOPE to Kings fans – He is a WINNER! Great hire! http://t.co/MD5AiRrH9n
— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) February 12, 2015
George Karl who was a favorite of Dean Smith due to his hustling style of play is the RIGHT GUY for the KINGS! http://t.co/U1kmREaKz8
— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) February 8, 2015
Karl did have a decent track record, having taken the Seattle Supersonics to the NBA Finals, the Milwaukee Bucks and Denver Nuggets to the conference finals and more, although his teams had been bounced from the NBA postseason in the first round nine out of his final 10 postseason trips as a head coach dating back to 2003 in Milwaukee. So how high was the bar really to be set for the Kings and Karl?
Not all the takes and early opinions of the Kings-Karl pairing were overwhelmingly positive. Some expressed more accurate concerns.
Could be wrong George Karl is a hell of a coach when you get beyond nonsense but doubt Kings are in state where Karl fits now & in this way.
— John Dickinson (@JDJohnDickinson) February 11, 2015
Skeptical of George Karl hire in Sacramento. Conventional wisdom was he was out-coached two years ago by Mark Jackson.
— Matt Steinmetz (@SteinmetzNBA) February 12, 2015
But you’re not here for those reasonable opinions and statements. You want more stuff like this…
Opinion: George Karl’s arrival ranks as one of Kings’ biggest moments http://t.co/9Q5dGTDUag
— Joe Davidson (@SacBee_JoeD) February 22, 2015
Is George Karl the right hire for the #Kings? @GaryPayton_20, @Scalabrine & @foxsportsreiter weigh in. #FSLivehttps://t.co/qIuUc2tDoV
— FSLive: #JayAndDan (@foxsportslive) February 10, 2015
George Karl is an outstanding hire by the Kings shame the Magic couldn't get him though. However Sac treatment of Corbin is a disgrace #NBA
— Adam Joseph (@AdamJosephSport) February 14, 2015
(It turns out the Magic are still trying to figure out some things with their franchise as well, so this may not be a poor take.)
The marriage of George Karl and the Kings was necessary, even if rocky times await http://t.co/pFUriaOiBz pic.twitter.com/Gx1qjO5p8r
— Bleacher Report NBA (@BR_NBA) February 23, 2015
Rocky times did surely await with a 33-49 record in Karl’s first (and only) full season with the Kings.
LOVE this. He may bring Sac back @SusanneBrunner! “@SportsCenter: Karl & Kings agree to 4yr deal estimated at $15M. pic.twitter.com/XdZNWoa5eo”
— Jason Snavely (@JasonSnavely) February 12, 2015
The Kings fired Karl on April 14, 2016, 14 months after he had been hired. He has not returned to coaching as of yet.