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After a season-plus of an uneasy partnership, the Sacramento Kings fired coach Michael Malone, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Malone was informed of the decision on Sunday night, in the wake of losing seven of nine games without ill star center DeMarcus Cousins.
Tyrone Corbin will take over as the interim coach, likely for the term of the regular season. Around the NBA, there's a strong belief that general manager Pete D'Alessandro will pursue ex-Denver Nuggets coach George Karl, but a high-ranking Kings source insisted Sunday night that it is unlikely a full-time replacement will be hired during the regular season.
There has been significant tension between management and Malone on several fronts over the past year, and the firing ultimately turned out to be another cautionary tale in what happens when ownership doesn't put together management and coaching staffs that have similar philosophies and a shared partnership.
Owner Vivek Ranadive has wanted the Kings to play a faster style of basketball, and D'Alessandro – who has worked with Don Nelson in Golden State and Karl in Denver – has sought a similar style. Ranadive has been a hands-on owner and expected the Kings to compete for the playoffs this season. After a 9-6 start, Cousins had been lost for nine games with viral meningitis but his absence couldn't save Malone.
Over the summer, Malone, who had been hired before D'Alessandro on June 3, 2013, had believed that a slow start could cost him his job, league sources said. Management interviewed candidates for his top assistant job, but Malone ultimately hired his preferred candidate, Corbin, the ex-Utah Jazz coach. Malone doesn't believe Corbin undermined him, sources said.
While Kings management wants to play faster, Corbin's style of play as head coach of the Jazz doesn't suggest he's the ideal candidate. Nevertheless, those are Corbin's marching orders now.
Another possible long-term candidate for the Kings: ex-Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro. Del Negro led the Bulls and Clippers to the playoffs, and has experience in coaching young stars Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin that could be beneficial in continuing the development of Cousins.
Malone had disagreed with ownership's pursuit of a Josh Smith trade in July, and made his position known to Ranadive, league sources said. Ranadive joined D'Alessandro in talks with the Detroit Pistons, but no agreement was ever reached.
Malone had three years guaranteed on his $9.4 million contract and a team option for the 2016-17 season.
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