Dave Joerger

Luke Walton officially hired as Kings' new coach on four-year contract

Luke Walton officially hired as Kings' new coach on four-year contract

The last time Kings general manager Vlade Divac conducted a coaching search, it spanned weeks, with more than 10 candidates drawing interviews.

With a new contract extension in hand and complete control of the Kings’ franchise, Divac is taking a different approach this time.

Luke Walton officially became the Kings' new coach Monday, the team announced, just four days after Dave Joerger was fired. Walton will be introduced at a press conference later Monday.

“I have known Luke for many years, and I am so excited to welcome him and his family to the Sacramento Kings,” Kings general manager Vlade Divac said in a team-issued statement. “I look forward to his leadership on the court as we work to build a winning culture for many years to come.” 

Walton and the Kings agreed to a four-year contract Saturday, only one day after he mutually parted ways with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Sam Amick of The Athletic was the first to report the deal, and NBC Sports California confirmed the details with a league source.

The Kings would not reveal terms of Walton’s deal, citing team policy.

The former player-turned-coach posted a 98-148 (.398) record during his three seasons in Los Angeles, but he dealt with myriad issues behind the scenes.

Before joining LA, the 39-year-old son of NBA legend Bill Walton worked under Steve Kerr as an assistant with the Golden State Warriors. He spent two seasons in Oakland, including a 43-game stint as an interim head coach while Kerr dealt with back issues.

Walton posted an incredible 39-4 record as a fill-in for Kerr, and even took home NBA Coach of the Month honors during his time.

Following Walton’s departure from the Lakers, Kerr shared his thoughts on his former understudy.

“As this job, as a coach in the NBA, you are 100 percent dependent on your circumstances -- the strength of the organization, the momentum, the unity -- everything has to be in good order,” Kerr said Friday at Warriors practice. “Because if it’s not, as we’ve witnessed with the Lakers, then there’s going to be casualties, and usually the coach is the first one.

“They are losing one of the best human beings in the NBA, they’re losing a guy who knows the game as well as anybody I’ve ever met, they’re losing somebody players believe in and players want to play for,” Kerr added.

The Kings have a strong young core. They posted a 39-43 record under Joerger this season, but they chose to go in a different direction after missing the playoffs for a 13th consecutive season.

During his Thursday press conference announcing Joerger's firing, Divac was clear that he wanted a coach who would continue to run the up-tempo style Sacramento became known for this season. 

[RELATED: Divac fires Joerger, takes full ownership of Kings' future]

"Our new coach, which I'm looking for, has to bring, first of all, that style we had last year -- that's Kings style," Divac said. "We have to play that way. Uptempo and moving the ball and communication and defined roles and, obviously, believing in the team."

The Lakers finished fourth in the NBA in pace, just ahead of the Kings. They were second in pace last season before LeBron James joined the franchise via free agency.

Walton is the 18th coach for the Kings since the franchise relocated to Sacramento prior to the 1985-86 season. He is the 10th coach since Rick Adelman left the post after eight years at the helm following the 2005-06 season.

How Luke Walton could be a good fit as Sacramento Kings' next coach

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USATSI

How Luke Walton could be a good fit as Sacramento Kings' next coach

The Kings haven’t even had time to give Dave Joerger’s office a fresh coat of paint, and they already have a new coach.

An NBA source confirmed Saturday that Luke Walton has agreed to take over in Sacramento after a whirlwind 48 hours for all parties involved.

Walton was one of the hottest names in the game three summers ago. Fresh off a 39-4 run as the Warriors' interim coach during Steve Kerr’s injury, Walton signed on to lead a young and inexperienced Lakers team on a five-year, $25 million deal. While he showed improvement in each of his three seasons in Los Angeles, the 39-year-old coach finished with a 98-148 record.

Strangely enough, Joerger finished with an identical 98-148 record over his three seasons in Sacramento. The win total wasn’t enough for Joerger to keep his job, but the Kings didn't hold it against Walton when hiring him.

Let's examine Walton's experience and how he's a fit for the Kings.

Why didn’t it work out for Walton in LA?

While Walton didn’t ultimately find success in LA, there's a lot of blame to go around.

Magic Johnson already has quit as team president after piecing together a ragtag group of players around superstar LeBron James. The Lakers' decision to chase Anthony Davis leading up to the NBA trade deadline killed chemistry and put all of the team’s young core on notice. It’s a total mess in La-La Land.

Walton didn’t rise above the chaos, but not many coaches would. James missed 27 games because of injury or being shut down. When James went down with a groin injury in December, the Lakers were 20-14. When he returned Feb. 5, the team was 27-27 and scuffling.

The Lakers shut James down late in the season and coasted to the finish line. Most of the decisions made that affected the outcome of the season came from higher-ups, not Walton.

Why might it work out for Walton in Sacramento?

There’s no guarantee it will work with the Kings, but Walton is a fresh voice, and he inherits a team on the rise.

While more experienced names are available, Walton’s play style fits the Kings' roster to a tee. He loves having his team push the tempo, although his 2018-19 Lakers squad was poorly assembled for that kind of play.

During his three seasons with the Lakers, Walton's teams finished sixth, second and fourth in pace. They finished just ahead of the Kings in pace this season, although they scored 111.8 points per game compared to Sacramento’s 114.2.

The biggest reason for the points disparity hinges on LA’s inability to shoot from the perimeter. Walton inherits a Sacramento team that shot 37.8 percent from behind the arc, which ranked fourth in the NBA. Despite shooting more 3-pointers than Sacramento, the Lakers hit just 33.3 percent (29th in the league).

The Kings shot 86 fewer 3-pointers than the Lakers and hit 80 more. So, Walton’s offense might look completely different with De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Harrison Barnes and Nemanja Bjelica shooting from the perimeter.

On the other side of the ball, Walton’s group ranked 12th in the NBA in defensive rating in each of the last two seasons. Joerger’s team ranked 20th this season, which was a huge improvement over the previous season.

If the Kings return with the same roster, they have the potential to improve on defense because of their age and gaining valuable experience. But Sacramento doesn’t have the size and length of the Lakers’ roster under Walton.

LA also was a much better rebounding and shot-blocking team than Sacramento. This issue might be addressed during the offseason, but then again, it might not.

Intangibles

Walton is known as a player's coach, although at times he appeared to lose the room in LA this season. Not many coaches could handle the personalities, trade rumors and distractions that Walton faced. When LaVar Ball is the last of your worries, there's an organizational issue.

There's no way that Kings general manager Vlade Divac will add the types of personalities that Magic did. There's also no guarantee Walton will find a way to bond with a young Kings team and have them fall in line.

[RELATED: Joerger says he "bled purple"]

Walton’s 39-4 record as the Warriors' interim coach shows he can connect, even with the best of the best. His 37-45 record this season with the Lakers shows he can struggle as well.

The truth is, Walton likely is somewhere in between these two experiences. He also has pre-existing relationships with Divac from their playing days in LA, as well as a history with Harrison Barnes from their time together with the Warriors.

The Kings have plenty of talent. They need to continue to improve, and Walton is both young enough to grow with the group and experienced enough to potentially get them over the hump.

'I bled purple:' Dave Joerger talks Kings tenure on Grant Napear show

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'I bled purple:' Dave Joerger talks Kings tenure on Grant Napear show

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.”

[RELATED: Kings interested in Luke Walton for coach vacancy]

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.