What George Karl Will Bring to the Sacramento Kings
It's all but official -- after the All-Star break, George Karl will be the head coach of the Sacramento Kings.
After extensive talks between Karl and management, the 63-year-old will become the Kings' third head coach this season, after firing Mike Malone in mid-December and appointing Tyrone Corbin his successor. Karl will return to coaching a year and a half removed from his most recent season with the Denver Nuggets, in which he won NBA Coach of the Year honors after leading Denver to a franchise-best 57-25 record in the Western Conference.
As a veteran in the NBA coaching profession, what will George Karl bring to the Sacramento Kings?
A Winning Culture
The Sacramento Kings haven't had a winning season or made the playoffs since 2005 when Rick Adelman manned the sidelines and Mike Bibby rocked the headband. To say they've been irrelevant in the West for the past eight and a half years would be an understatement. Since 2005, the Kings haven't once finished better than fourth in their division and haven't had a single head coach last more than 171 games.
This year's outlook is no different -- the Kings' struggles continue. They are currently fourth in the Pacific Division and are looking for answers in the form of a new head coach -- and wins. Can George Karl provide some?
The numbers say he will. Just take a look at his last two stops: Milwaukee and Denver.
In five years with the Milwaukee Bucks, from 1997 to 2002, Karl posted a win percentage of 54.2% as he led Milwaukee to four playoff appearances -- one in which the Bucks lost in the Eastern Conference Finals.
In his most recent coaching job with the Denver Nuggets, from 2004 to 2012, Karl posted a win percentage of 62.2% while leading Denver to nine consecutive postseason appearances, and an appearance in the Western Conference finals in 2008.
Now you might point out that the Nuggets' other eight appearances ended in the first round, and I get that. However, despite the lofty goals set forth by owner Vivek Ranadivé, the Kings aren't in serious championship contention (our power rankings, unsurprisingly, give them a 0.0% chance to reach the playoffs let alone win a title). In reality, they're just looking for a winning season and maybe a playoff appearance in the near future. Karl, based on his coaching history, can provide that.
An Explosive Offense
Not only can George Karl bring a winning attitude to Sacramento, but he can also bring a high-powered, uptempo offense -- something Vivek wants to see.
The Kings are already eighth in the NBA in pace at 94.7 possessions per game, but that figure is deceiving. The Kings are just 17th in the league with an Offensive Rating of 104.6 and are 16th in points per game with just over 100 per contest. So, they don't exactly need to pick up the pace. They need to be more efficient with their offensive possessions.
George Karl has proven he's more than capable of helping the Kings improve in that area.
This chart shows the Nuggets' eight full seasons under George Karl and what their pace was and where it was relative to the rest of the league, their Offensive Rating and where it was relative to the league.
As you can see, every year under Karl, the Nuggets' pace was at least two possessions more than the league average, and their Offensive Rating was just once under the league average. As a matter of fact, the Nuggets had five years in which they had an Offensive Rating of 110 or better and four years in which that figure was over four points better than the league average.
Karl's Nuggets never finished worse than second in their division, either.
A winning culture? Check. An efficient, uptempo offense? Check. The Sacramento Kings might have just found their perfect coaching fit in George Karl.