After years of turmoil, the hiring of Dave Joerger represents a move in the right direction as the Kings prepare to play in the Golden 1 Center.
Saying that the recent coaching history of the Kings has been unstable would be an understatement. Since Rick Adelman left the team in 2006 after eight successful seasons, the Kings have managed to go through eight coaches in just 10 years. Only two of those eight coaches managed to eke out a winning percentage above .400--and those were the first two, Eric Musselman and Reggie Theus. There has been no shortage of drama from the coaching staff either, from the firing of Paul Westphal after just seven games in the 2011-2012 season (with rumors of feuding with DeMarcus Cousins making their way around the media world) to the firing of Mike Malone (a popular coach among both players and fans who was quickly snagged by the Denver Nuggets) to the "snakes in the grass" era of George Karl and his utter surrender towards the end of the season. The front office wasn't exactly the picture of stability either, as Pete D'Alessandro left for the Nuggets and almost immediately began trashing the Kings to any member of the media who was willing to listen. Vlade Divac's first trade with the 76'ers (nationally panned for how he sacrificed future assets to unload a couple of poor contracts) certainly didn't help matters. The Vivek Ranadive "4-on-5" debacle (where Vivek was rumored to have suggested having one player cherry-pick on defense because it worked for his daughter's middle school team) also cost the Kings some degree of respect from the media. Many scoffed at the Kings for shooting for "win-now" moves when the team had failed to win 30 games the year before, and just assumed that the franchise would continue to sacrifice the future for a chance at a decent team for the 2016-2017 season in the new arena.
The hiring of Dave Joerger will hopefully represent a turning point both for the franchise itself and for their perception in the national media. Simply put, Joerger has been successful at every single stop of his coaching career. He started off as the general manager of the Dakota Wizards of the International Basketball Association, and within a year moved to the bench as an assistant. He began as head coach of the Wizards in the 2000-2001 IBA season, and led the team to a 30-10 record and their first league championship. When the IBA merged with two other leagues and became the Continental Basketball association, Joerger was named coach of the year and once again led his team to the title. They held the league’s best record the next year, although they bowed out before reaching the championship. The team lost six players to the NBA in the 2003-2004 season, but still led the league with a 34-14 record and Joerger was once again named coach of the year. They also won their second championship that year. After that season, Joerger left for the Sioux Falls Skyforce, a team that had missed the playoffs and held losing records the previous two seasons. Joerger promptly guided them to a 31-17 record, a playoff berth, and a CBA title after beating his old team the Dakota Wizards in the semifinal. The Skyforce and the Wizards moved the NBA D-League the next year, and Joerger returned to the Wizards and led them to a league-best 33-17 record and yet another championship. The Memphis Grizzlies hired him as an assistant coach the next season. Joerger was promoted to lead assistant before the 2011 season and was tasked with taking over the team’s defense. Memphis went from 24th in defensive efficiency in 2010 to 9th in Joerger’s first year, then improved to 7th in 2012 and 2nd in 2013. Joerger took over as head coach for the 2013-2014 season, and was named the Western Conference Coach of the Month twice during his first year. Overall, the Grizzlies went 147-99 during Joerger’s tenure, and made the playoffs all three years despite record-breaking injury numbers during the 2015-2016 season (the team employed 28 players last year, an NBA record).
Dave Joerger has won with every team that has been lucky enough to have him as their head coach. Joerger not only led every team he coached to a winning record, but in more than one case also turned a losing team into a winning one nearly immediately. While it would be unfair to expect him to instantly turn the Kings into a playoff contender, Joerger has a proven history of making teams better regardless of the talent level he has to work with. He also got along very well with Zach Randolph, formerly of Jail Blazers fame, which is a positive indicator that he could have the same effect on the mercurial DeMarcus Cousins. Although many are quick to dismiss DeMarcus’ short fuse and penchant for technical fouls as petulance, the fact remains that Boogie has never had stability either roster-wise or in the coaching chair during his time in the NBA. Cousins has said time and time again that he loves Sacramento and wants to stay there, but the fact remains that Sacramento has been near the bottom of the standings for his whole career and his contract will expire before the 2019 season. If anyone is likely to change both Cousins’ habits and the Kings’ recent stretch near the bottom of the Western Conference, it would be Joerger. The Kings could certainly have done a whole lot worse than hiring a coach who has won, and won convincingly, at every level of his coaching career.