Could Kenny Natt become the next Scotty Brooks?
While both are technically considered interim coaches for their respective teams (Kings and Oklahoma City, of course), the Oklahoman is reporting that Brooks' bosses are leaning toward keeping him beyond this season. After starting 3-29, the Thunder had won five of its last eight games before falling to Miami on Sunday. Yet as is the case here in town as well, it's not just about the record when it comes to these situations.
It's about the relationship between the coach's bench and the front office, about having a shared vision and solid communication that creates an environment in which the talent on hand is used to its maximum potential. And just as Thunder GM Sam Presti has praised Brooks in this department, I continue to hear nothing about good things about Natt in that area as well. From his personality to his approach and general philosophy, he has a good approval rating going.
That's not to say it's a done deal that he'll stick around. Not even close. There are 41 games left and the Kings haven't experienced even a mini-turnaround that lowly teams like the Thunder and Minnesota have. Winning at an increased pace - however small - is a public relations necessity as far as Natt is concerned. It's hard to sell an already furious fan base on a relative unknown for a new coach when they haven't seen a change in the outcomes since he took charge. What's more, Natt has called for some puzzling matchups in a number of games and had a few hiccups in late-game situations.
But if Natt can finish the season with his good name intact, he'll be ahead of the game on his own merits and because of the context around him. Remember the part about the Kings still paying two other coaches at the moment? That's no small thing in these economic times, as the Maloofs are among the masses taking a hit and they may not be eager to pay a bigger-name coach $5 million a year (around the going rate). If the rebuilding had led to a roster that looked playoff ready by next season or even the season thereafter, then it's more of a possibility. But right now, they're taking this into consideration ...
Eric Musselman: We knew his payoff was $5 million, but the way it was structured in his contract spread the amount over four years ($1.25 million per year) with the hopes that he would get a new job and thereby lose out on most of the dough. So far, though, Musselman remains an inactive coach and active blogger/writer.
Reggie Theus: Theus' deal was for three years and approximately $6 million, with the final year a team option. So really, it's something close to a two-year, $4 million deal in which he was let go 24 games in. Lump sum owed Theus after he was gone: $1.36 million.
For the time being, this is all feel and speculation on my part based on what's being said around the team. There's half a season to go, and what happens in that span will have everything to do with where Natt stands at the end.
When I walked out of the Palms Casino in Las Vegas on that scorching hot day two Junes ago, I was convinced Brooks would be the next Kings coach.
It appeared he had Petrie on his side at the time, and the only missing element was the Maloofs' seal of approval. Then just minutes after they sat down with Brooks for the first time, I stumbled on a cheery Joe Maloof. The Kings co-owner raved about Brooks and it sounded as if the news conference was being organized already.
Ironically, many of the same traits that are helping Natt are the same ones the Kings would have benefited from in Brooks: upstanding character guy, low ego, NBA credentials without a superstar mentality (a la Theus), easy to work with, smart basketball man.
THE LAST WORD
* Team report cards of any kind always spark discussion and some disagreement, but this was something else.
A 9-year-old boy dubbed "Sac Sports Kid" is a working member of the blogosphere, and he gives me an 'F' for the breakdown of his favorite team. Let your voice be heard, my man. I may not agree with you, but I love the spirit. - Sam Amick