SACRAMENTO -- Instead of hiding in a bunker for the next few weeks and letting things blow over, former Sacramento Kings head coach Dave Joerger called into the Grant Napear show Friday evening to say goodbye. In a wide-ranging interview, Joerger had plenty of positives to say about his time in the Capital City.
“Coaches come and go,” Joerger told Napear. “My dream was to get the Sacramento Kings into the playoffs and I’m looking forward to that group making the playoffs in the near future and that will make me feel as good as anything ever.”
Joerger sidestepped controversy, refused to throw anyone under the bus and gave plenty of praise to Vlade Divac, his former players, and Kings fans.
“Vlade and I had a great relationship and we’ll always have a great relationship,” Joerger said. “You never know when your paths will cross in this business again.”
According to Joerger, he heard about his potential firing early on Thursday as it started to break. Before that time, he was mostly in the dark.
When asked if he had any regrets from his time in Sacramento, Joerger again chose the high road.
“I don’t think so, as it sets in you’re going to take stock of little things that maybe came up and could I have handled that better,” Joerger said.
He chose a very specific path this season with his young roster. Even during the worst of the team’s losses, Joerger tried to keep a level head and avoid the negative.
“Always looking at the positive, especially with a young team,” Joerger said of his approach. “You go in there and be negative and hit them over the head every single day, I don’t think we would have seen the growth that we would have otherwise had.”
There is no question the Kings’ young roster improved under Joerger and his staff. De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield had breakout seasons and rookies Marvin Bagley and Harry Giles made significant strides as the season progressed.
Joerger’s decision to bring Bagley off the bench for most of the season has been one of the most debated issues surrounding the former coach. He addressed that situation with Napear as well.
"I just think the sky's the limit with Marvin,” Joerger said of the 20-year-old big. “He's going to be an All-Star, without a doubt and I don't know how many years that's going to take. But I thought it was what was best for our team and for a guy to go in there and earn the respect of his teammates. Nothing was given to him.”
Bagley finished the season well, but he started just four of a possible 62 games for the Kings. Joerger used veteran Nemanja Bjelica as his starter at the power forward position to help space the floor. It was a decision that didn’t always sit well with management in Sacramento and likely played a role in his dismissal.
Joerger was the 17th head coach in the Sacramento-era of Kings basketball. He took over a veteran squad in year one and watched as injuries and trades decimated the roster. He took on a completely different roster in year two, including five rookies and 10 players on rookie scale deals.
In year three, Joerger pushed his young core to the best record in over a decade in Sacramento, finishing the year 39-43. He had his team in playoff contention until a series of close losses took the wind out of their sails late in the season.
As for the fans, Joerger praised his experience in Sacramento.
“I bled purple, there is no doubt,” Joerger told Napear. “That will always run deep for me.”
“I see why Rick Adelman gave everything he had and how much he loved it here,” Joerger added. “Certainly I was hoping to try to bring that level of success to Sacramento, but I’m extremely thankful for the relationships that I’ve built.”
After nine seasons in Memphis, Joerger came to the Kings with high hopes. He succeeded in developing players and putting the team back on the right path after years of chaos and dysfunction.
He won’t get an opportunity to see the rebuild to its completion, but there is no question he left the Sacramento Kings franchise in a better position than they were in three seasons ago when he took over at the helm.