Sacramento Kings Fire Luke Walton

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The Sacramento Kings have fired head coach Luke Walton, according to multiple reports around the league. After starting the season with a 6-11 record, the Kings have decided to make a change now and begin the search for their next coach.

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Associate head coach Alvin Gentry is expected to be a candidate to fill in as interim head coach. Gentry has been a head coach for five different teams over the course of his career but is not the only strong candidate. Former Kings player and broadcaster Doug Christie is also under consideration.

Walton finished with a 68-93 record for Sacramento in his two-plus seasons with the team. He was hired by Vlade Divac, the previous general manager. Monte McNair is the current GM and will now have the opportunity to hire his own head coach.

Entering Sunday the Kings have lost seven of their last eight games, sitting 12th in the Western Conference standings. The team has struggled so much so that Tristan Thompson went into a tirade in a postgame press conference earlier in the week.

One month into the season, the Kings rank 26th in defense as they give up more than 111 points per game to their opponent. Their 110.9 defensive rating ranks 23rd in the league and they are 22nd in net rating. The additions of Thompson inside and talented rookie Davion Mitchell have not been enough to turn things around in Sacramento.

There is also the cloudy situation surrounding Marvin Bagley III who is still seeking to be traded. Now in his fourth season, the former 2nd overall draft pick remains unhappy with his role. It has gotten so bad that he refused to check into a game last week. Both sides would ultimately benefit from a trade but the Kings are not willing to just give him away for next to nothing.

Sacramento has talent on the roster and should be better than 12th in a shallow West. They have a solid young backcourt with De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, and Mitchell. They gave Richaun Holmes a new contract in the summer and the play of veteran Harrison Barnes has kept them in plenty of games. Still, they remain far from making the leap needed for a return to the playoffs.

The Kings have the longest active playoff drought in the league. Their last playoff appearance came in 2006, and they have gone through ten different head coaches since then. Walton’s .422 winning percentage with the team is the second-best of the 18 coaches since the franchise moved to California in 1985.

Holmes has never believed that the coaching staff was the problem. “Blaming the coaches, I never really understood too much, in my perspective,” Holmes said on Saturday night. “If you blame somebody, blame 22 in purple. Blame me for that, blame the players for that. That’s just always how I felt about it. They come in and do their job every day, put us in a position we need to do our jobs. We need to go out there and do ours.”

Barnes followed that up after the loss to Utah on Saturday. “Maturity,” he said. “It’s really just a matter of maturity. When we choose to do those winning things and we do them right, and it doesn’t work, okay, then we can come back to the table and draw up something different. But until we execute what we said we were going to do, at that point, we’re just banking on getting hot.”

Walton was hired by the Golden State Warriors as an assistant in 2014. He served as the team’s interim head coach at the start of the 2015-16 season and led the team to a perfect 19-0 start while Steve Kerr recovered from offseason back surgery. After the 2016 NBA Finals, Walton was hired by the Los Angeles Lakers where he was eventually fired after going 37-45 and missing the playoffs following the 2018-19 season.

The next game for Sacramento comes tomorrow night when they host the 9-8 Philadelphia 76ers, who have lost six of their last seven games. They could get Joel Embiid back after missing the last seven games due to COVID-19 protocols. The game will air nationally on NBA TV at 10 PM ET on Monday.