HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The news that the Kings relieved Paul Westphal of his duties earlier this afternoon didn’t even rate a raised eyebrow here at the hideout.
“What took so long?” someone shouted from the back.
Was there any other possible outcome in a situation that had become a certifiable mess in recent days?
The Kings’ 2-5 start to this season coupled with Westphal’s repeated clashes with second-year big man DeMarcus Cousins will no doubt be held up as reasons for his dismissal, and they had to play a factor in this decision.
But his 51-120 record in two-plus seasons was bound to cost him his job sooner rather than later (and now Keith Smart assumes those duties for the team). It was only a matter of time for Westphal, who you should have known would not finish the season on the Kings’ bench after the craziness that transpired last weekend (when he said Cousins demanded a trade, Cousins was suspended and then comes back to the team and denies Westphal’s claim).
Kings co-owner Joe Maloof made that clear to our David Aldridge earlier today:
“It was probably time,” Maloof said “Paul’s a class act, just tremendous. But it just wasn’t working out. We thought it was best to make a change and give Keith a chance.”
Joe Maloof said Kings general manager Geoff Petrie made the recommendation to fire Westphal to him and his brother Gavin. Smart will be the Kings’ coach for the rest of the season.
“We try to leave the basketball decisions to the basketball people, but anybody can see it wasn’t working out,” Joe Maloof said. “Gavin and I called Paul. He was very appreciative and said thanks for the opportunity. We thanked him for his hard work and his work in the community. It wasn’t a bad call. It was a very nice call.”
Joe Maloof said that while the dynamic between Westphal Cousins was “part of the decision,” the bigger issues were the lack of development of all the Kings’ players and the owners’ hope that Sacramento could snap out of its rut and still be a factor in the Western Conference playoff race.
“I think we all knew something had to be done,” Maloof said. “We know we have a lot of (young) players but we were expecting to do well this season. We have a couple of guys who are in their third year in the league. We still have 60 games. We still have a shot…Geoff came to us and said it probably was never going to work between those two guys. It was probably best to move on. (But) none of the guys were playing up to their potential. It didn’t make sense, our play on the court. It just didn’t make sense….crazy things can happen. We’re trying to win and we’re trying to see what (Smart) can do.”
The rebuilding process was supposed to be in its second or third phase by now for the Kings. Instead, they’re heading back to the drawing board with a new coach and the March 1 deadline to approve a plan to help finance a new arena still looming, otherwise the franchise can explore relocation again.
The clock is ticking … on everybody!