After a week of virtual interviews, the Sacramento Kings have moved forward with their coaching search, reportedly reducing the list to three and, by all accounts, choosing to value past head coaching experience.
Mike Brown, Steve Clifford, and Mark Jackson have all advanced to the in-person interview phase of GM Monte McNair’s hiring process.
This means that the intriguing but less-experienced candidates—Darvin Ham, Charles Lee, and Will Hardy—will not take over the reigns in Sacramento.
It also means that the distinguished Mike D’Antoni will not be coaching the Kings either, leaving open an interesting guessing game for 76ers fans as their team prepares for the Eastern Conference Semis and the future of Doc Rivers remains anything but clear.
With the lack of previous experience of the three ascending assistants and with the lengthy, championship-less history of D’Antoni, it seems Sacramento is not in a position where they feel comfortable taking a gamble.
Brown, Clifford, and Jackson may not be the most popular names to fans, but the fact that they are the three finalists illustrates that the Kings are looking for a steady option that will be less prone to be a source of surprises. They apparently don’t want any form of volatility, no matter how high the ceiling may be.
The Kings feel they are poised to become a playoff team, that they are on the cusp of success, and that all is needed is a solid, dependable leader in addition to a few more pieces. Moreover, it may be that the front office does not have much choice other than to go with more balanced (which, for some fans, is to say less exciting) options.
As Carmichael Dave and Jason Anderson have noted, Monte McNair’s contract situation may be playing into this. McNair’s deal is good through the end of the 2022-23 season. Though there has been speculation of a fourth year team option, the organization has not commented on the matter.
Whether or not there’s a fourth year option, Anderson wrote, and how this next season goes could likely make or break McNair’s place as General Manger. Unless, that is, private assurances have been made behind closed doors, which is not entirely believable.
The common consensus is that while McNair has done nothing to deserve being removed from his post, he has not exactly secured a right to the job beyond his deal. Good draft picks and an aggressive trade deadline alone aren’t enough to make that case since this is a results-driven business.
Of course, that can change. If the Kings can make the playoffs, as they feel they can, McNair will not only be most likely rewarded with an extension, he will be on the receiving end of fan acclamation for finally putting a winning product out on the floor.
However, success is elusive, and the Kings, no matter how close they feel they are, still need to execute this offseason if they are to do that. That starts with who they hire at head coach.
A lot is riding on next season for this franchise that has excavated new lows in professional sports, as well as on the future of their top executive, so Brown, Clifford, and Jackson being the finalists should not be very surprising.