Last in Pacific Division, Kings fire Theus

The Sacramento Kings fired coach Reggie Theus on Monday morning, a league source told Yahoo! Sports.

Assistant Kenny Natt was named interim coach and will coach the Kings on Monday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Theus’ top assistant, Chuck Person, was fired too.

Theus’ dismissal had been imminent. Sources say he had alienated not only his players, but general manager Geoff Petrie and the owners, Joe and Gavin Maloof.

The Kings had lost 10 of 11 games to drop to last place in the Pacific Division at 6-18.

The Kings are intrigued with bringing former Kings and Wizards coach Eddie Jordan back to Sacramento, but it’s most likely they’ll wait until the end of the season to pursue him. Jordan coached Sacramento for one season in 1996-97, but was let go by former owner, Jim Thomas, after the team made major deals for Chris Webber and Vlade Divac. Thomas wanted a veteran coach for that upgraded roster and management turned to Rick Adelman.

In less than two seasons with Sacramento, Theus was 44-62. The Maloofs sold Petrie on hiring the former New Mexico State coach despite his limited experience in coaching. Yet Theus was a popular former player for the Kings, and the Maloofs fell in love with his candidacy.

Theus knew he was on the way out in Sacramento, especially when his option for next season didn’t get picked up over the summer. Privately, Theus has been plotting a course to return to college basketball. His agent, Lonnie Cooper, should have no problem placing Theus back on campus this spring. Theus took New Mexico State to the NCAA tournament in 2006-07, his second season on the job there.

Theus is the sixth NBA coach to be fired this season. So far, the Oklahoma City Thunder (P.J. Carlesimo), Washington Wizards (Jordan), Toronto Raptors (Sam Mitchell), Minnesota Timberwolves (Randy Wittman) and Philadelphia 76ers (Maurice Cheeks) have changed coaches. All six were represented by the same agent, Cooper. Jordan and Mitchell are expected to resurface sooner than later in the NBA.

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Updated Monday, Dec 15, 2008