Sacramento Kings: Firing Dave Joerger was a mistake

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - MARCH 14: David Joerger of the Sacramento Kings looks on during the first quarter against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on March 14, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - MARCH 14: David Joerger of the Sacramento Kings looks on during the first quarter against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on March 14, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

The Sacramento Kings have officially fired their coach Dave Joerger after a promising 2018-19 season in what was ultimately a bad move for the team.

After their best season in nearly 15 years, the Sacramento Kings have opted to fire their head coach Dave Joerger in what has proven to be a very divisive move amongst the fanbase.

Joerger entered the season coaching his third with the Kings but very little was expected from a franchise that has long been a consistent bottom-feeder in the Western Conference. The team hadn’t won 40 games since the 2005-06 season —the last time they made the postseason — and had secured under 30 victories eight of their 10 seasons from 2008-2017.

None of that was expected to change this season as the Kings began the year with the second-lowest expected win total per with just 26 anticipated victories. However, Sacramento proved to be one of the biggest surprises of the 2018-19 NBA season as they finished the year with 39 wins, one seed shy of the playoffs.

While the season fell apart a bit at the end and the Kings finished nine games outside of a playoff berth, it’s hard to argue that this year was anything but an overwhelming success.

The team’s young backcourt in De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield developed immensely into one of the best young guard duos in the league. Fox’s second-year jump was especially notable given his lackluster rookie year.

The Kings also saw incredible promise from rookie No. 2 overall draft pick Marvin Bagley who averaged some impressive numbers in a part-time role. Bagley finished the season averaging 14.9 points and 7.6 rebounds in just over 25 minutes per game. The Duke product flashed his immense athleticism on the offensive side of the court as he was one of the key pieces in the Kings fast-paced offense this season.

All of this was overseen by Joerger who helped develop these young players and guide the team to an impressive and unexpected season. He was praised throughout the season for his shift to a more quick-paced, fast-break-heavy offense which became one of the Kings’ calling cards as the season progressed.

Suddenly, there was a new wave of optimism surrounding the Kings organization. A franchise that had long been a laughing stock of the NBA characterized by instability at the top, petty locker room quarrels, and generally unlikeable players and front office members had become one of the most fun and exciting teams in the entire league.

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The Kings were on the rise and while Joerger doesn’t deserve all of the credit, he certainly deserves some.

Plenty will criticize aspects of his coaching aptitude including his inability to develop an effective half-court offense among other things. Schematically, it would have been nice to see the Kings use more pick-and-rolls and utilize screens more often, but those were things that could have been fixed over time when the team brought in different personnel.

Others were quick to point out the fact that the team struggled closing games later in the season and that they finished with a 9-17 record over their final 26 games. But it’s easy to forget the fact that they were in that position in the first place was because of some excellent, clutch play in the first half.

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While this late-season collapse shouldn’t be entirely dismissed as a direct result of the lack of experience on the team, it’s hard to argue that it didn’t at least play a small part. This is a developing team — and it still is a developing team. The growing pains are to be expected especially when it comes to finishing games.

Could Joerger had done more to make adjustments late in games? Yes, probably. But to place the blame solely on him would be a miscategorization of responsibility.

Unfortunately, that’s precisely what general manager Vlade Divac has decided to do. The unnecessary blame has been placed on Joerger as the former attempts to “consolidate his power” ahead of next season.

At the end of the day, Joerger was the mastermind behind a promising and exciting new brand of Kings basketball. He wasn’t the core of the nucleus, rather he was the overseer of the foundation. A foundation that had been built up over the past few seasons and finally broke through this year.

The Kings will hope that this foundation will continue to grow over the coming seasons as their team gains more and more experience. But they will be without the tutelage of the man who brought them to this point.

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A man who carried them out of the depths of NBA misery into a respectable, playoff-contending team.

Joerger wasn’t the driving force behind the Kings surprising 2018-19 season, but he was steering the ship. The Kings may not have removed their engine, but they did just remove their driver.