Sacramento Kings head coach George Karl was reportedly on the hot seat but will keep his job after a sudden change of heart by ownership and the front office.
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Shaq Comments on Karl
Tuesday, Feb. 9
Kings minority owner Shaquille O'Neal talked about Karl's current standing within the organization on TNT's Inside the NBA on Tuesday, per USA Today's Sam Amick. "I talked to [Kings owner] Vivek [Ranadive] about that," he said. "Nothing is going to happen to George Karl this year."
Karl's Agent Releases Statement
Tuesday, Feb. 9
Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports provided comments from Karl's agent, Warren Legarie, who spoke about his client and the Kings:
Marc J. Spears @MarcJSpearsESPN
Quote from Kings head coach George Karl's agent: https://t.co/v2kBNQcjmy2/9/2016, 9:03:20 PM
Karl to Keep Job Despite Rumors of Imminent Firing
Tuesday, Feb. 9
Marc Stein of ESPN reported that "the Sacramento Kings, in a dramatic about-face, have decided to keep [Karl] in place as coach."
Stein added that the team decided to abandon plans to part ways after a "lengthy meeting" between Karl and general manager Vlade Divac.
"George is our coach, and we're collectively working through our issues," Divac told Stein.
On Monday, Stein reported the Kings were "going ahead" with a change and would "likely" fire him after Sacramento's final game before the All-Star break, which is Wednesday against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Chris Mannix of The Vertical reported earlier that Karl's firing was an "inevitability," adding that the "front office's confidence in Karl has almost completely eroded." Mannix detailed how bad the situation has gotten in Sacramento:
Players have tuned out Karl, privately seething over inefficient practices and shootarounds, and ineffective in-game adjustments from the bench, league sources told The Vertical. The dysfunction may have originated with Karl and DeMarcus Cousins, but it has spread through the locker room like an infection. Indeed, barring a surprising turn of events, it's more likely assistant coach Corliss Williamson finishes the season as the Kings head coach than Karl.
On Saturday, Stein reported the Kings had wanted to wait until the All-Star break "before deeply weighing Karl's future," but the "George Watch is on now."
Karl Hasn't Had Impact Kings Hoped For
The Kings have lost seven of their last 10 games, which has dropped their overall record to 21-30 and leaves them 4.5 games out of eighth place in the West. It's caused support for Karl to fade both within management and the locker room, according to Mannix.
The 64-year-old coach took over the position from Tyrone Corbin last February. He's led the team to a lackluster 32-49 record across two seasons, however, and patience is in short supply for a franchise that hasn't qualified for the postseason since the 2005-06 season.
Karl enjoyed better results at his previous stops, including successful stints with the Seattle SuperSonics and Denver Nuggets. His teams have qualified for the playoffs in 22 of his 26 seasons on the sidelines.
He's been unable to match that level of consistency in Sacramento. In late December, Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee passed along comments from Karl about his group's up-and-down play.
"I told the team inconsistent intensity, inconsistent focus, inconsistent toughness and mental discipline," Karl said. "Too many times we've come out on this court and been the quiet team, or the soft team or the cool team and not the man team."
Not much has changed since those remarks, and the recent losing skid has further highlighted the problems. And now the lack of progress could cost Karl his job.
Even if the front office opts against firing him right away, it's clear the veteran coach is now on the hot seat as the team seeks a strong finish. The Kings still have a chance to make the playoffs, but they need a spark to make the necessary run.
Whether Karl is the coach who can provide it is now the key question for team owner Ranadive and Divac.