Kings embark on coaching search, Sabonis wants input, Fox does not

Kings GM Monte McNair to hire his first head coach

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The Sacramento Kings are about to embark on another offseason of change. Uncertainty is commonplace in Sacramento, but this offseason might be one of the more important ones in recent memory. 

General Manager Monte McNair and assistant GM Wes Wilcox are tasked with fixing the Kings after coming up short for a second straight year. They have reshaped the roster and put the franchise in position to make further changes this offseason, but coming up with another game changer won’t be simple. 

As the season closed, McNair, as well as a group of players, held exit interviews with the media. It’s a crucial offseason for everyone involved and plenty of topics were discussed. 

At the top of the list was the search for a new head coach, which has already begun after interim Alvin Gentry was relieved of his duties on Monday morning. After accepting the job in Sacramento with the understanding that Luke Walton would remain head coach for at least a season, McNair is finally getting a shot to hire his own front man, more than 19 months into the job.  

“What we’re going to do, is that every decision that we make, we’re going to run a comprehensive and very process-driven coaching search,” McNair said. “We’re going to let that run its course. We are going to take as long as we need to find the correct person to lead us.”

Comprehensive and process-driven are nice buzz words. McNair is good at using phrases like this that give you very little information. Maybe the one bread crumb that he gave the contingency of media members is that the team is willing to listen to outside opinions and ideas. 

“We’re excited to see what the people that we talk to, what their vision is for the team as well,” McNair added. 

McNair, along with Wilcox, have plenty of names to choose from. At this moment, the Kings’ opening is one of very few available. There is still potential for additional jobs to pop up as playoff teams are eliminated, but there is also a chance that another high quality candidate or two hit the open market.

There are fewer cooks in the kitchen in Sacramento than in past offseasons, but McNair and his group also have a group of players that they can consult, if they choose to do so. 

Harrison Barnes, De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis were all asked whether or not they would give their input into the search and the range of answers was all over the board.

Barnes was taken aback by the suggestion that he, one of the longest tenured Kings, would be consulted on something as important as the new coach.

“I don’t anticipate my opinion being solicited at all, actually,” Barnes said with almost a chuckle. “But I appreciate you thinking about that.”

Barnes is entering the final year of his contract, which may have something to do with his stance. Opposing teams have tried to pry the 30-year-old forward away from the Kings over the last two years and there is always a chance he will find a new home this summer.

If Barnes is back, he knows that there are crucial decisions facing McNair this offseason and they don’t end with a coaching search.

“I think these decisions are huge,” Barnes said. “They are going to occur at the highest level of the organization. That’s what’s going to happen and as a player, I think my focus is mostly just making sure I’m improving as a basketball player and I’m in the best possible shape to be able to contribute with whoever -- whether coaching or roster personnel that’s out there next year.”

The newcomer of the group, Sabonis has a completely different stance. That might be because he hasn’t been through this process before in Sacramento.

“I would like to be part of it, talk to everyone and give them my input -- what I think, what I’ve seen, what could work, what could help,” Sabonis said.

If the 25-year-old center wants to give his ideas, the Kings should probably listen. Sabonis has two years remaining on his contract, but the franchise should do everything in their power to make next season as successful as possible if they hope to get the two-time All-Star to sign a mega extension next summer. 

This will be Fox’s fourth head coach since joining the Kings as the No. 5 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. He still isn’t ready to jump in and make demands, but he said he would like to be “kept in the loop.”

“For me, I’m not thinking too much into the head coaching thing,” Fox said. “Let the front office do what they do. I have trust in them. If they ask me, I’ll give my two cents, but I’m not really going into it thinking like that.”

Fox and Sabonis are the pillars of the Kings’ new foundation. They showed flashes of brilliance together in the short stint they spent together on the court. Fox thrives in an uptempo style of play, but he’s also ready for a different type of leader than the last couple of coaches that have come through Golden 1 Center.

“Just someone who’s going to instill discipline and try to change the culture,” Fox said. 

In addition to discipline and a culture changer, Fox said he would like someone who is going to be around for a while. The constant resets wear on a player, especially one that is considered the face of the franchise. While the losses and setbacks have taken a toll, Fox still understands what it would mean to be part of the group to turn things around in Sacramento.

“It’s definitely been difficult I would say, kinda coming into this situation, but like I’ve always said, you want to be a part of that team that kinda turns it around,” De’Aaron Fox said. “That’s never changed.”

In Fox’s five seasons with the Kings, the franchise has posted a 158-232 record. He’s seen the inconsistency of the franchise, including multiple regime changes, three head coaches, countless assistants and even more players. The sheer volume of turnover that Fox has witnessed is staggering. 

Sabonis, who came over at the trade deadline, has a fresh point of view. He isn’t jaded by the losing that has now extended to 16 straight years without a postseason appearance, although he’s seen his own share of changes during his time in the league.

In six seasons, Sabonis is on his third franchise (fourth if you count the Magic, who drafted him) and he’s played for a staggering five head coaches. He is looking for his NBA home and he hopes he’s found that here in Sacramento.

“I think since I got here, it’s been great,” Sabonis said. “They welcomed me with open arms and really showed that they want to make a change. It starts with us coming in and making a big jump this offseason, and I’m excited for it. There’s a lot of stuff we have to do and I have full trust in Monte [McNair] and Wes [Wilcox] and I’m excited.”

Both Fox and Sabonis acknowledged that they have trust in the front office. The duo have plans to spend time together this summer building on-court chemistry, which was already developing in their short stint together on the court. 

After so many setbacks in Sacramento, Fox has a unique perspective on the task in front of this group. He knows the history that they are up against, but he’s also been around the franchise long enough to understand what delivering a winner would mean to the city and the fans. 

“It’s hard to try and turn a team and a franchise around, but it’s something that I’m willing to put the work in to change,” Fox said. “I think if you change that here, it’s not like changing anywhere else.”

This is a moment where the Kings have to get it right. Whether they hold a “comprehensive and very process-driven” search or they stumble on the right person in the first interview, this franchise can’t afford another setback. 

If Sabonis wants input, then let him speak. If Fox doesn’t, that's okay as well. The key is that you walk into next season with a coach w has a chance to build something in Sacramento and last longer than what has become a standard 2-3 seasons with the Kings. 

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