Mike Malone was hired this summer, amidst a flurry of changes, to be the head coach of the Sacramento Kings. Malone has been known around the league to be a defensive strategist, one who has turned many defenses around including the 2012-13 Golden State Warriors.
In an interview with Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee, Malone talked about how to change the culture of the Kings. Asked “The phrase ‘change the culture’ has become such a cliche. What does it even mean?”
It is a cliché. What I mean is that when you want to change culture, you change people. When the players come back in September, they’re going to get a sense that things are different when they’re around our staff. They can see how hard we work, how committed we are. I’m running sprints last week withDeMarcus Cousins and Travis Outlaw, and they said, “Coach, we’ve never had a guy run sprints with us.”
Malone obviously has a lot to do at this point; the Kings have been too irrelevant for too long. Winning in contagious, but so is losing. To change the culture Malone, it seems, recognizes that you have to bring in players who have the desire to win and those who are willing to put the hard work in.
In recent years, Kings’ players have become used to contributing less than was required of them, a lot of the blame has to go on the previous coaching staff for not being able to motivate their players. For the Kings, it seems, a new course has been charted by the new regime.
On the court building a winner always starts with defense. Most fans are dazzled by the athletic prowess of the gifted athletes in the NBA on the offensive side, but games are always won on the other side of the court. Take for instance the 2013 NBA Finals; both teams featured very good defenses in addition to their offensive brilliance. The San Antonio Spurs have long been the model franchise of the NBA–they have the best win percentage in the NBA in the Greg Popovich era, and they have done it with defense.
The Kings have long been deficient as a defensive basketball team going back to the Rick Adelman years, when Sacramento was a perennial playoff contender. In recent years, the Kings have been horrid in defence. This goes back to a culture of playing for contracts not wins. I have a feeling that Malone is just the guy to fix all that ails the Kings.
The Kings also have a young roster and that means molding the younger players into good citizens off the court is just as important as molding them into winners on the court. Instilling the winning drive into a team means getting players to buy in to your program. That will be the greatest challenge of the Malone era in Sacramento. Once players buy in to your coaching, half the battle has been won. The other half will show on the scoreboard after every have.
At the end of the day Malone doesn’t have a choice but to try and change the culture. Failure to do so will result in another coaching search.