Breaking: Kings move on from Alvin Gentry, coaching search begins

Kings move on from Gentry after 30-52 record

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Welcome to Sacramento, where head coaches should rent their home, not buy.

The Kings Beat has confirmed through a league source that interim head coach Alvin Gentry will not return for another season. As expected, the interim head coach was informed of the franchise’s decision to go a new direction and a new search will start immediately for his replacement. 

Gentry, who has spent the last 33 years in the league as a coach in one capacity or another, posted a 24-42 record in 65 games after replacing Luke Walton 17 games into the season.

He didn’t have the impact the Kings hoped for, but he also brought the team through major transitions throughout the year. 

With Gentry out, the Kings are now looking for their 20th head coach in the 37 years since relocating to Sacramento, including 11 over the last 16 years, a stretch that coincides with the longest playoff drought in NBA history.

Why did Gentry have to go? 

The writing was on the wall when Gentry was not granted the three-year contract he was looking for when he took over for Walton. There were incentives placed in his interim contract that could have led to him being elevated to the full-time coach moving forward, but a sub-30 win season and the team’s failure to make the play-in tournament sealed his fate.

It was clear from early on this season that the 2021-22 Kings’ roster had major chemistry issues. They failed to respond to Walton and they did very little to move the needle under Gentry. 

This is a failure on the players, not the coach, but Gentry was also not able to capture the room in a way that impacted the bottom line. 

Kings management will now hold another coaching search, beginning in the coming days. We have already started hearing a list of potential candidates being mentioned, but the field should be wide open.

Is it fair to put the blame on Gentry?

Absolutely not. Gentry was handed a broken roster and a group of players lacking heart. On multiple occasions, Gentry said his team wasn’t quitting and that he had never quit anything in his life. The fact that he had to state those unsolicited words, speaks volumes to the team he took over. 

A steady hand, Gentry led the team from the Walton era, through the transition period and the covid outbreak portion of the schedule, and into a wild trade deadline. Players came into the season on the trading block and the noise only got louder as the February 10 deadline approached.

Gentry closed the season with a very different roster than the one he started with. Six new players were brought in at the deadline, with six leaving by one way or another. The addition of Domantas Sabonis changed the Kings’ entire play style, which Gentry adjusted to on the fly.

In addition to the roster changes, Gentry had to deal with injuries to Terence Davis, Richaun Holmes, De’Aaron Fox and Sabonis at different points in the season.

Any coach would have struggled in this situation. Gentry had very little chance of being an exception. 

What did Gentry do well?

This wasn’t Gentry’s first rodeo. There were times when the veteran coach demanded more from his team. There were times when he apologized for the play on the court. He spoke glowingly of the fanbase and kept an even keel throughout the year.

Having someone who has been through situations like this before didn’t lead to wins, but it also didn’t lead to complete chaos and anarchy. There were times after the trade deadline where the Kings played very well, even in losses. This doesn’t sound like a lot, but having a cultural collapse down the stretch was avoided.

What happens next?

Seeing a coach lose his job is old hat in Sacramento. The franchise has run through one coach after another and Gentry is just another notch on the belt. 

The search that will begin now is no different than the previous ones, although the team now has at least two major building blocks in Fox and Sabonis to work around. The early thoughts are that the Kings are looking for someone with experience, but who could change on a whim. This is the Kings after all.

There are plenty of available candidates, although the Kings will have competition and some of the available coaches they would like to interview will still be coaching in the playoffs. 

There are already rumors of potential fits, like Kenny Atkinson, Mike Brown, Steve Clifford, Terry Stotts and even Mike D’Antoni. But that list is likely to grow in the coming days.

As of now, the Kings are one of the few teams with a vacancy. That could change as the playoffs advance. It is also possible that a few very good coaches become available in the next few weeks. 

Why this hire matters

Every coaching hire matters, but the Kings are entering the danger zone. They already hold the record for the longest playoff drought in NBA history, but they also need to make the right impression on Sabonis as he enters the final two seasons of his contract.

Sabonis is eligible for a massive extension next summer and the goal should be to make the situation in Sacramento as stable and positive as possible so the two-time All-Star will want to stay long term. The Kings have a lot of work to do on the roster, but the right coach can tie it all together. 

Fox still has four years remaining on his rookie scale extension, but he is about to play for his fourth head coach as he enters his sixth NBA season. Both Fox and Sabonis should at least be consulted about the style of coach they would like to see hired, since they are the faces of the franchise.

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