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Report: Kings told DeMarcus Cousins they wouldn’t hire George Karl (then did), would fire him (then didn’t)

Boston Celtics v Sacramento Kings

Boston Celtics v Sacramento Kings

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DeMarcus Cousins-George Karl was the most dysfunctional franchise player-coach relationship in recent memory.

Who deserves blame?

Cousins? He was too moody, contributing to a chaotic culture in Sacramento that would have been difficult for any coach to traverse. Cousins harshly berated Karl multiple times, undercutting the coach’s stature with the entire team.

Karl? He went out of his way to antagonize Cousins. Karl’s job included forming a productive working relationship with Cousins, and it often seemed Karl had no interest in that.

Other culprits? Look higher in the organizational flow chart.

Broadly, Sacramento failed to build an adequate supporting cast around Cousins – which meant lots of losses. Losing inflamed any brewing Cousins-Karl trouble.

The Kings also apparently aggravated the situation by repeatedly misleading Cousins.

As they were considering hiring Karl in February 2015, word leaked that Cousins didn’t want to play for Karl.

Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN:

To compound problems, sources say, Cousins was assured by management that Karl wouldn’t be hired, despite rumors to the contrary.

Then, a year later, other reports said Sacramento planned to fire Karl in the coming days.


Exacerbating the situation -- and further proving the depths of the Kings’ dysfunction: In February 2016, Divac called Cousins in Philadelphia, where the Kings were on an extended road trip. The organization, Cousins was told, was going to fire Karl that day.

The Kings stayed Karl’s execution – Sacramento general manager Divac Divac infamously defending keeping Karl “for now” – until April 14. Those extra months just provided time for more losing and more Cousins-Karl sparring.

Divac has had communication issues, but it’s worth noting he wasn’t leading the front office when the Kings told Cousins they wouldn’t hire Karl/hired Karl. The franchise’s problems start at the top with owner Vivek Ranadive, who oversaw major management turnover between Karl’s hiring and firing.

I wouldn’t blame Cousins for resenting being repeatedly misled. But $219 million over five years can incite plenty of forgiveness.

How Sacramento fixes its numerous other problems is a much more confounding question. Its one Arnovitz explores in his deep dive into the Kings, which I highly recommend reading in full.