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Report: D’Antoni, Stotts, Clifford among coaches in running for Kings’ job

Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo emerging as clear favorites for the NBA MVP award as they continue to trade fantastic performances.

Luke Walton was fired 17 games into the season, and Alvin Gentry was never likely to shed the interim tag as the Sacramento Kings’ coach.

With the season winding down, the coaching search is about to ramp up in Sacramento. The Kings seek a coach who can end the franchise’s record 16-year playoff drought. Marc Stein named some potential replacements popping up on the rumor mill in his latest Substack missive (you need to subscribe to his newsletter).

...various veterans have been increasingly mentioned as likely contenders for the post. Coaching free agents Terry Stotts and Mike D’Antoni, alongside Warriors assistant coach Mike Brown and Nets coaching consultant Steve Clifford, are all frequently cited in league coaching circles as potential targets for Sacramento...

Eyebrows might be raised about the inclusion of D’Antoni, given the woeful defense Sacramento has mustered in recent seasons, but the 70-year-old is a proven winner who also has a preexisting relationship with Kings GM Monte McNair from their time together in Houston.

D’Antoni would pick up the Kings’ pace of play, which could lead to a bounce-back season for De’Aaron Fox, who regressed this season and didn’t seem to play as fast.

Offense, however, is not the end of the court that is the Kings’ problem (although they weren’t good on that end of the court this season, either). Sacramento finished 27th in the NBA in defense this season, which was actually a considerable improvement over the historically bad, last-in-the-league defense of the 2020-21 Kings (this year’s team is 1.8 points per 100 possessions better than that squad). With Domantas Sabonis playing heavy minutes in the paint next season for the Kings, improving the defense will be a challenge.

Steve Clifford has the best reputation of defensive coaches on that list, his teams traditionally see stark defensive improvement under him. At Clifford’s last job, the Magic’s defensive rating improved by two points in his first season, jumping into the top 10 in the league (and he took over for Frank Vogel, a good defensive coach in his own right).

Whoever takes over the Kings’ job will face pressure to win in a franchise where the owner has a reputation for being hands-on. It’s a job unlike any other, but the potential of a playoff team, or at least play-in team (the West will be very deep next season as the Clippers and Nuggets get healthy).