Keith Smart took over Sacramento under some very strange circumstances.
The very public spat between Paul Westphal and DeMarcus Cousins eventually cost the veteran coach his job and brought Keith Smart back to the forefront for his second head coaching sting in the league. The Kings were not going to blow the doors open and make the Playoffs. The roster is too young, plus you had the uncertainty over the team’s future in Sacramento to deal with.
Still, Smart did a nice job keeping the team together in the wake of that potential disaster and got the players to trust him quickly. Sacramento is 10-21 since Smart took over, but wins are not the most important thing at this point in the rebuilding process.
Sacramento believed Smart was doing a good enough jobt perhaps repairing some of those bridges and developing those young player to keep him around… at least for the 2012-13 season.
On Monday, the Kings signed Keith Smart through the end of next season, assuring some form of stability at the top for this still-rebuilding franchise.
“(The players) have responded pretty well to what I’ve been doing,” Smart told the Associated Press. “They take constructive criticism and take a pat on the back well. We are trying to build something that will last a long time — not a quick fix deal.”
From all accounts, Smart has really connected with his players and that is the main difference between him and Westphal. While the record does not indicate it, the players completely supported Smart’s takeover in January and his team responded quickly. Cousins is having a nice sophomore campaign with 16.2 points and 11.4 rebounds per game.
The question though still remains whether this is the right move for the Kings.
Smart’s record with Sacramento does not suggest he is some coaching genius. And he does not really have the track record to warrant blind trust in his coaching ability. Before this season, his only other head coaching experience came with Golden State where he helped the team improve by 10 games from the previous year. That was apparently not enough for the Warriors, who decided not to bring him back the following year.
There is very little evidence besides the scant eight weeks from this year to base any opinion of Smart off of. Even if the Kings had not extended Smart’s contract, he certainly would have been in the running for the position this summer.
But, at least to Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee, the timing of the extension seemed a bit odd — not with the surplus of good coaching candidates that could have been available during the offseason and the relatively good position the Kings appear to be in now that the arena issue is nearly settled.
Voisin concedes in that thought experiment that Smart probably would get the job at the end of the year anyway and that he has made some smart personnel decisions — namely starting point guard Isaiah Thomas and moving Tyreke Evans off the ball. Smart deserves a chance to coach these guys, especially considering how they have responded to him and how little time he actually gets to work with his team because of the compressed schedule.
Is everybody sold on Smart?
It seems the players are, and that is probably ultimately what matters for the Kings’ development.