Sacramento Kings: John Calipari Could Solve Team’s Problems

Mar 19, 2016; Des Moines, IA, USA; Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari reacts in the first half against the Indiana Hoosiers during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 19, 2016; Des Moines, IA, USA; Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari reacts in the first half against the Indiana Hoosiers during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports /

The Sacramento Kings are opening a new home next season, and there is a coach out there who just might be able to help right their ship — John Calipari.

The Sacramento Kings have one championship in their franchise’s history — and that was in 1951. To make matters worse the Kings haven’t made the playoffs since the 2005-06 season, when they lost in the first round to the Spurs. To say that the Kings wallow in mediocrity is putting it mildly.

In the span of their 10 year playoff drought, the Kings have not finished higher than tenth in the Western Conference. And that tenth place finish actually occurred in the 2015-16 season.

Adding further insult to injury, fans have seen the organization waste countless numbers of lottery picks over that span of time. Since that 2005-06 season, the Kings have only drafted one All Star in DeMarcus Cousins. Of the rest of the picks since 05-06, only one two players remain with the franchise. And those would be 2013 first round draft pick Ben McLemore and 2015 first round draft pick Willie Cauley-Stein.

But of all their faults and flaws, the Kings’ worst offense has got to be their head coaching situation.

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Since the 2005-06 season, the Kings have had a staggering number of different head coaches — seven, to be precise. Their longest tenured head coach was Paul Westphal from 2009-12, and that stretch was 171 games. Their most successful coach was Eric Musselman, who coached the team from 2006-07. Musselman was the head coach for only one season and had a winning percentage of .402.

This continuous carousel of head coaches is not fair to the players, creating an endless supply of distractions. Nor is it fair to the coaches themselves.

For one thing, the players need some continuity when it comes to head coaching. Players need to gain trust with their head coach and be able to understand his playbook. By having so many head coaches, players are having to learn new systems every year. On a young team looking to build for the future, changing the way the team plays every year does not promote success.

Cousins is one of the best young big men in the league. But since his career started in 2010, he has played for five different head coaches. That has not helped his development in the least. By having a coach in place for more than a season Cousins can form a rapport with him, and arguably become an even better player.

For the coaches it is unfair because like the players, they need continuity. It is unfair for a coach to be judged by a single season. While a team utterly devoid of winning expects to win immediately after a change, that isn’t how the system works. Coaches need time to learn how the players play and then figure out how to use them properly.

The Kings’ strategy of just trying to pick a new coach and then hoping he starts getting the team wins obviously isn’t working. The team would be better served by hiring a coach and keeping him in place for a longer period of time. Even if he fails in his first year, the team can’t give up on him. They need to give him a chance to succeed and let the players get comfortable.

The Kings again vacated their head coaching position following the 2015-16 season, firing George Karl after 112 games with the club.

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Some names being thrown around as Sacramento’s next head coach include former Clippers’ coach Vinny Del Negro, former Warriors’ coach Mark Jackson and current Warriors’ assistant coach Luke Walton.

While all those candidates would be fine choices for the Kings, one coach remains superior to them all.

John Calipari.

The head coach of the University of Kentucky Wildcats has been with the program for six seasons and carries a 217-47 record — which equates to a .822 winning percentage.

Calipari has also coached at the University of Massachusetts and the University of Memphis, and for his 23 year career he has posted a 662-187 record, or a winning percentage of .780. He won the 2012 NCAA Championship and has taken all three schools he’s coached to the NCAA tournament. And he currently has the seventh most wins among active men’s college basketball coaches.

Given the fact that coach Calipari’s college achievements are so impressive, he would be an excellent hire for the Sacramento Kings.

For one thing, Calipari was Cousins’ head coach at Kentucky. The two have a strong relationship and Calipari can push Cousins to be best player he can be. With Calipari in the fold, Cousins would have reason to buy in to the organization and might be less likely to leave during free agency.

Cousins had a clear dislike of coach Karl, which was covered frequently by the media. That dislike led to outbursts which eventually led him to being suspended one game at the end of the season for conduct detrimental to the team. With Calipari as his head coach, the team would have to worry less about Cousins lashing out at his head coach.

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  • Next, Calipari could use his Kentucky connections to lure in free agents. Players who played for coach Calipari n college could be interested in playing for him again. And with Sacramento having a little over $25 million in cap space, the team has the funds to facilitate a deal.

    One player that comes to mind for the 2016 off season is Rajon Rondo. He had a career revival with Sacramento in 2015-16, averaging 11.9 points, 11.7 assists, 6.0 rebounds, and 2.0 steals per game. His 11.7 assists tied a career high and ranked first in the entire NBA. Rondo’s ties to Kentucky could also lead him to signing a longer deal with Sacramento.

    Calipari may also have some pull in the college ranks. Kentucky is known to be the home of many “one and done” type players. In fact the all eligible players on the 2016 roster declared for the draft. Currently only three Kentucky players are getting drafted according to NBA Draft Net. But two of those players are likely going in the lottery. The Kings could feel safe taking one of those players under the assumption that he would succeed under coach Calipari’s tutelage.

    Finally, and most importantly, hiring coach Calipari would bring some excitement to the Kings’ fanbase.

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    Hiring a Del Negro or Jackson would just revive the feelings of the organization hiring another one and done coach. While both have established themselves, neither has any separated them from the rest of the pack of potential coaching candidates.

    Hiring Calipari gives the Kings’ fanbase some excitement going into the season. He would add some glamour to a franchise not used basking in the spotlight.

    Hiring Calipari would give fans a reason to care for the upcoming season and show that the front office brass is ready to succeed. They would have to hunker down and truly give coach Calipari a chance, but with the potential benefits being so high, it seems like there is no downside.

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    Calipari has already said that it would take at least a 10 year/ $120 million contract to come to the NBA. That amount seems astronomical, but it could be worth it. The contract would prove to the fans that the Kings are committed to Calipari and that he isn’t going to simply be another one and done coach. Which is something the Kings have always needed.

    John Calipari would bring a new culture to the Sacramento Kings. Hiring him would be in the best interest of the Kings, as he could turn this team around and bring an entirely new culture to Sacramento. He might even turn them into contenders.