NBA

Three Finalists Emerge In Kings Head Coaching Search

May 2, 2022, 9:31 AM | Updated: 9:31 am
OAKLAND, CA - MAY 14: Acting head coach Mike Brown of the Golden State Warriors looks on during Gam...
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

And then there were three.

It was an eventful weekend for the Sacramento Kings head coaching search as multiple reports from ESPN and The Athletic indicated that candidates were being informed if they would be brought in for a second interview.

On Saturday afternoon, James Ham of The Kings Beat reported that Kings general manager Monte McNair’s sights have shifted to three finalists:

  • Mark Jackson, former Golden State Warriors head coach (2011-2014; current ESPN analyst)
  • Steve Clifford, former Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets & Orlando Magic head coach; current Brooklyn Nets consultant
  • Mike Brown, former Cleveland Cavaliers & Los Angeles Lakers head coach; current Golden State Warriors assistant coach

In-person meetings are set to take place this week as it appears the franchise is closing in on hiring its 12th head coach over the past 17 years.

According to Ham, a decision could be made between the three finalists by the end of this week or early next week.

Sacramento would surely like to operate this entire offseason with its new head coach implemented as there are several changes expected to take place to a roster that needs a facelift.

The Kings will have some clarity on their standing in the 2022 NBA Draft on Tuesday, May 17th when the ping pong balls will decide the team’s fate as the NBA Draft Lottery will take place in Chicago.

After finishing the 2021-22 season with a 30-52 record, the Kings hold the seventh-best odds of securing the number-one pick in the lottery following the team’s 16th-straight losing season.

Based on where Sacramento places in the lottery, several top prospects will be there for taking in yet another important draft, one that will likely garner input from the team’s future head coach.

Whomever McNair selects for the head coaching position is expected to be in the 916 for the long haul as the team has flailed to find solidity on their bench since saying goodbye to Hall of Fame coach Rick Adelman in 2006.

Many questions surround Jackson, who last patrolled an NBA sideline during the 2013-14 season with a rising Golden State Warriors team. Although the former All-Star guard’s name has been often mentioned in head coaching searches from around the league over the years, the 57-year-old has yet to secure another job.

Clifford, 60, holds a career 292-345 (.458) record with four playoff berths over eight seasons as a head coach with the Bobcats/Hornets and Magic. While with Charlotte during the 2017-18 season, Clifford took an extended absence due to sleep deprivation but returned to coach the team in 2018-19 for the Magic.

Over three seasons as Orlando’s head coach, Clifford led the Magic to the postseason twice before parting ways with the organization in June of 2021.

Possibly the fan-favorite for the position is current Golden State Warriors assistant Mike Brown.

Brown, 52, coached the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers to a 305-187 (.620) record during his six seasons with the team that included five postseason berths and an appearance in the 2007 NBA Finals.

During the 2011-12 season, Brown coached the Los Angeles Lakers to a Pacific Division championship and first-round series victory over the Denver Nuggets. Brown was fired just five games into the 2012-13 season in what was the third-fastest coaching change in NBA history.

Since the beginning of the 2016-17 season, Brown has been an integral part of a Warriors coaching staff that has won two championships and been one of the greatest basketball dynasties in recent memory.

Brown has had a large hand in crafting a Warriors defense that finished the 2021-22 season with a league-best 106.9 defensive rating and ranked third in opponent points per game (105.5).

“Mike is very, very prideful of defense,” Warriors guard Klay Thompson said in an interview with The San Francisco Chronicle in February.

“He’s like a secondary head coach. Coached us throughout that time in the 2017 playoffs. Coached the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Finals. He’s been around some of the greatest to play the game. This might technically be a new role for him this season. But really, it’s nothing he hasn’t done before.”

Defense must be a priority for the Sacramento Kings this summer as the team finished the 2021-22 season with the 27th-worst defensive rating and allowed nearly 116 points per game–bad enough to rank 29th in opponent points per game.

It’s unknown which coach McNair is leaning towards hiring, but based on these three finalists, it’s clear that the Kings front office and ownership is keen on hiring a candidate with head coaching experience.

Up-and-comers in coaching discussions from around the league like Milwaukee Bucks assistants Darvin Ham and Charles Lee or Boston Celtics assistant Will Hardy weren’t included in Sacramento’s shortlist of second interviews, meaning that we could see one of these coaches take over vacancies in Los Angeles, Charlotte or Utah if current head coach Quin Snyder is excused.

Jackson, Clifford, and Brown are set to interview in Sacramento with the Kings brass this week as we inch closer to a resolution.

We’re in the endgame now.

NBA

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