In a move that was all but inevitable, it was announced Sunday morning that the Sacramento Kings have fired head coach Luke Walton after a disappointing 6-11 start to the 2021-22 season. Current associate head coach Alvin Gentry will serve as interim head coach for the remainder of the season, and Rico Hines has been promoted to be his lead assistant.
“After a thorough evaluation of the season thus far, I decided to make a change to the head coach position,” said Kings General Manager Monte McNair. “I want to thank Luke for his efforts and contributions to our team.”
During his 2+ years in Sacramento, Walton compiled a 68-93 (.422) record, which surprisingly enough was the best winning percentage by any head coach since Hall of Famer Rick Adleman was fired back in 2006.
For whatever reason, a very vocal Sacramento fan-base did not like Luke from the moment he was hired by then general manager Vlade Divac and are probably crowing quite loudly today. Whether it was due to the sexual assault charges lobbied against him during the summer of 2019 (that were later dropped), or criticism of his inability to manage LeBron James in the 2018-19 season with the Los Angeles Lakers, or just the overall national media’s attitude towards him as not a quality head coach, he was doomed from the day he set foot in Sacramento.
As for the players, most had Luke’s back throughout the constant noise from the outside. De’Aaron fox and Tyrese Haliburton repeatedly supported Walton. The rest of the core also publicly backed him when asked. Center Tristan Thompson held an emphatic post-game Q&A where he made it clear that coaching was not the issue, and it was the players (or certain players) that need to step up if they were going to turn the season around.
The only player reported as having issues with Walton was disgruntled bigman Marvin Bagley, but he hasn’t liked any of his coaches since arriving in Sacramento and is likely one of the first players to be shipped out before the February NBA trade deadline.
"We all know all of us have to be better, especially over the last two weeks,'' McNair said. "We're not meeting expectations. That's not just on Luke. That's on me, the rest of our coaches and players. Everyone acknowledges that.''
Monte now must come up with a winning plan moving forward. The offensive-minded Gentry, 67, is clearly not the long-term solution the team needs. Fans should probably expect to see more of an up-tempo run-and-gun style over the remaining 65 games. That might be enough to slip into the play-in tournament, but without a solid defensive plan and improvements at the 3 and 4 positions, little more.
Young, upstart coaches who think outside-the-box are all the rage now for the NBA teams of tomorrow and is likely the direction Sacramento should go next summer. Who that is will probably be the hot topic distracting Kings fans for the next seven months.
But for now, Sacramento fans need to deal with the noise of having run through their tenth head coach in their past 15 seasons, with not a single playoff appearance to show for it.
The drum beats on…