ORLANDO, Fla. – The Sacramento Kings hired Paul Westphal on Tuesday night, ending a winding and sometimes tumultuous two-month coaching search.
Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach Kurt Rambis wanted more time to consider an offer on Tuesday, but the Kings' owners, the Maloof brothers, and general manager Geoff Petrie balked and turned to the eager Westphal.
Petrie wanted the three candidates – Westphal, Rambis and Boston Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau – to agree to terms on a contract on Monday before an offer was extended, sources said. This way, the Kings wouldn't offer the job to someone who might reject it.
Westphal and Thibodeau agreed to terms on a two-year contract worth $1.5 million a season, with a team option for a third year at $2 million. Rambis had been the Kings' first choice, but he wanted more time during the Lakers' NBA Finals series against the Orlando Magic to make a decision. The Kings decided enough was enough and moved on to Westphal. Thibodeau pulled his name out of consideration earlier in the day.
The process was marred with an immense amount of acrimony. Sources say the Kings were turned off by one rival representative's relentless and nasty attacks on Westphal's candidacy. As for Westphal, he was livid over what he considered unfair and unfounded attacks and nearly pulled out of the process over the weekend.
Yet several league executives and coaches who knew Westphal well rallied on his behalf and helped him land the job. Westphal was 267-159 with an NBA Finals appearance and four trips to the playoffs with the Phoenix Suns and Seattle Sonics.
Westphal is the fourth coach in three years for the Kings and takes over the worst team in the league. The Kings were 17-65 this past season, and are stuck with several bad contracts. They'll pick fourth in the June 25 NBA draft, but are interested in trading up to Memphis' No. 2 spot to take Spanish phenom Ricky Rubio.
Westphal is expected to hire Dallas Mavericks assistant Mario Elie, and strongly consider ex-Phoenix and Milwaukee Bucks coach Terry Porter and veteran NBA assistant Brian James. Bryan Gates, a rising star in the NBA's D-League for the Idaho Stampede, is expected to be a strong candidate for a spot on the staff.