Kings Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Sacramento Kings and the NBA.

June 8, 2009
The latest on the Kings coaching search

Compelling Game 2 in LA last night, not to mention a possible step toward simplification of the Kings coaching search.

The official stance remains that all three candidates are still in the running, but it's Lakers assistant Kurt Rambis and former Phoenix and Seattle head coach Paul Westphal who come with the complications. And a Lakers sweep, it's safe to say, would be embraced by all.

With his focus squarely set on winning a title, Rambis has made it clear that he refuses to be distracted by the Kings' situation. Couple that with Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie's history of not wanting to step on other team's toes, and that means the situation is on hold (translation: no negotiations to know exactly what it would take contractually to land Rambis). Meanwhile, Westphal continues to wait while wondering exactly what to make of it all.

There were rumblings late last week that Westphal might pull out of the race, and it says something that he remains. If Westphal happened to pull out, this search would be without the only candidate that legitimately fulfills the initial parameters of experience and success. And then some. (To be fair, Rambis was 24-13 in his partial season as Lakers head coach in 1998-99, with a series win over Houston and a Western Conference semifinal loss - by way of sweep - to San Antonio)

Three years into Westphal's five-year tenure at Pepperdine that didn't go well and continues to hurt his name (especially as it pertains to developing young talent), renowned hoops statistician and analyst Dean Oliver was publishing his book, "Basketball on Paper," in 2004 and making quite a case for Westphal's record. Oliver, who previously worked as a consultant in Seattle and is now the director of quantitative analysis for the Denver Nuggets, is almost always coupled with ESPN's John Hollinger when it comes to minds at the forefront of basketball's Moneyball movement.

And on page 224 of his well-respected book, he begins an analysis of coaching success (since 1992) based on unconventional formulas that consistently result in Westphal being either at or near the top of these coaching A-lists. The most valuable part of Oliver's work is that it gets us beyond Westphal's record (267-159, .627 winning percentage) and the differing views that stem from it.

When it comes to Westphal and assessing his time as a pro coach, I've learned that there are staunchly-split camps. One camp says he's a creative offensive mind, top-notch tactician and born winner whose ability to handle personalities shouldn't be defined by his Seattle experience. The other camp says he is a man who benefited from wildly-talented NBA rosters, with his style too lax and focus too one-sided to make him the right candidate for the Kings. The Oliver read won't likely change any opinions on either side, but at least it gets us out of the same old thought box.

It's a great read for hoops junkies and can be found in PDF form here. Much of the approach focuses on quantifying expectations of each coach's respective teams and judging that against the eventual results, the hope being to evaluate the coaches in a manner that speaks to their actual coaching ability.

The timeline on this search remains a moving target, with some believing it could reach a resolution this week (even if the FInals extended) and others saying that won't be the case. I was told over the weekend that Petrie was making more background calls on the candidates. As for the final call in this coaching search? We'll just keep waiting. - Sam Amick

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