Two days after being jettisoned by the Memphis Grizzlies, Dave Joerger has landed in Sacramento as the latest coach looking to end the Kings’ decade-long playoff drought.
Joerger replaces George Karl and becomes the Kings’ ninth head coach since the team went to the playoffs in 2006 under Rick Adelman.
“He is a strong and passionate leader with a proven track record of producing results,” general manager Vlade Divac said. “Dave shares our focus on creating a long-term culture of winning and I look forward to a bright future ahead for the Kings with his leadership on the court.”
Joerger went 147-99 in three seasons with the Grizzlies and took them to the playoffs each year. He led the injury-ravaged team to 42 wins this season, pushing them to the playoffs, where they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round.
Despite the success he achieved with the Grizzlies, he never was able to get on the same page with Memphis owner Robert Pera. Joerger was hired to replace Lionel Hollins after spending six years as an assistant in Memphis, but Pera never seemed to warm to him.
The situation grew so strained that Joerger interviewed for the open Minnesota Timberwolves job two summers ago before ultimately staying in Memphis.
He quickly found a landing place in Sacramento, where just getting to the playoffs in the team’s first season in its new downtown arena would be a major accomplishment.
The Kings went 33-49 last season and Karl clashed with ownership, Divac and All-Star DeMarcus Cousins in his lone full season on the job. Karl had been hired in February 2015 to replace Tyrone Corbin and had a 44-68 mark during his tenure.
When they opened up the search, the Kings pledged to go through a methodical, deliberate process and interview as many candidates as possible before making a decision. But as soon as Joerger was surprisingly made available, the Kings swooped in.
Joerger flew to Sacramento on Sunday for his first round of discussions, then had more meetings on Monday morning before the agreement was reached.
Joerger will get a three-year contract worth $4 million per season, a person with knowledge of the agreement told The Associated Press. The deal includes a team option for the fourth season. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the team did not release the terms of the deal.
Joerger will make double with the Kings what he was making in Memphis. He will be tasked with ending a playoff drought in Sacramento that extends back to 2006, the second-longest active drought in the league.
His first order of business will be to find common ground with Cousins, one of the most gifted big men in the league who hasn’t seen eye to eye with any coach he’s had in Sacramento except for Michael Malone, who was abruptly fired in December 2014 as the team has struggled for any stability under owner Vivek Ranadive.
Ranadive hired Malone soon after buying the team in 2013, picking a coach before he even hired Pete D’Alessandro as general manager. Malone was fired 24 games into his second season despite a close relationship with Cousins and some improvement on the court.
Corbin took over in December 2014 but lasted just two months before the team turned to the veteran Karl, who has the fifth-most wins all-time with a record of 1,175-824.
But D’Alessandro was replaced by Divac a few months after the move. Divac fired one of Karl’s assistants, Vance Walberg, midway through this season and then parted ways with Karl.
While the Kings won 30 games this season for the first time since 2007-08, they once again missed the playoffs as Karl failed to fix the problems on the court. The team allowed a league-worst 109.1 points per game and give up an NBA-record 839 3-pointers.
Then there were the issues between Karl and Cousins that boiled over last month when Cousins was suspended for one game by the team for yelling at Karl during a timeout huddle.
Divac now hopes Joerger can get the best out of the immensely talented but sometimes difficult Cousins, who has had five coaches in his six seasons in the NBA. Cousins is coming off his most productive season, averaging a career-high 26.9 points per game, along with 11.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists.
The Kings will hold an official press conference on the new hiring on Tuesday, May 10 at 10 a.m.