Mike Malone Rips into His Sacramento Kings

Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistDecember 24, 2013

First-year Sacramento Kings coach Mike Malone's breaking point came Monday after his team's double-digit loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.

At least, that's when he decided to let cameras and microphones capture his rant. He's the type of coach that won't settle for losing, even when his roster seems incapable of doing anything else.

"It's the same problem every night," Malone said, via News10.net. "I guess we got to get some better players."

And therein lies the problem. Not just for Malone, but for each member of the coaching carousel who came before him.

Sacramento's problem isn't talent.

DeMarcus Cousins (22.5 points on 49.5 percent shooting) might be the league's best back-to-the-basket scorer. Isaiah Thomas (18.9 points) and Rudy Gay (17.7 in seven games with Sacramento) can be difference makers on the scoreboard. Former No. 2 pick Derrick Williams and 2013 lottery selection Ben McLemore tantalize with raw ability.

But there's a focus missing with these players. One that Malone—like so many other failed coaches before him—cannot force upon them.

"I can't control the turnovers, I can't make the passes for them," the coach said. "At some point, these guys got to take responsibility. Each guy in the locker room's got to start looking in the mirror and owning up and taking responsibility for their play."

Malone is a no-nonsense coach who inherited a group of players that doesn't know any different. He's a brilliant defensive mind, leading players who have yet to discover that end of that floor (Sacramento's 106.6 defensive rating ranks 28th):

I asked Mike Malone if he has a defensive leader on the Kings that he can lean on: "I wish I did."

— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) December 21, 2013

Malone isn't going to lose his defensive identity. That's what made him such a highly regarded assistant while he was climbing the coaching ranks. It's the reason he's now sitting in the position that he is.

But he's not a miracle worker. He can only provide guidance, lessons that need to be heard, not just listened to.

It's a process that won't come quickly, meaning things may get worse before they get any better for Malone's Kings—something that the coach clearly does not want to hear.

"We've hit rock bottom four or five times now," Malone said.

Judging by the franchise's recent history and this roster makeup, I'd say Malone's group has another dozen rock bottoms on the way.


Stats via NBA.com.