Paul Westphal Rumors

While the Nets have yet to announce who will be part of Hollins’ coaching staff, one likely option will be Henry Bibby, a longtime Hollins assistant in Memphis who spent last season working under Maurice Cheeks with the Pistons. Other names that have been reported as possibilities for Hollins’ staff include former Suns, Sonics and Kings coach Paul Westphal, Lakers assistant Johnny Davis — a teammate of Hollins on the 1977 champion Trail Blazers and a former assistant on his staff in Memphis — and current Nets assistant Joe Prunty.
Lionel Hollins. The former Memphis coach was interviewed weeks ago and was willing to take the job, Love or no Love. The Wolves still could circle back to him, but Cleveland and the Los Angeles Lakers now are interested. He also might be too defensive-minded for Saunders, who’s an offensive coach at heart. A package deal with offensive-minded Paul Westphal as his top assistant is possible if the Wolves change their mind.
While a full-length training camp and ample practice time in season is important to all the teams, it especially means a lot to the Kings. It gives head coach Keith Smart, who had the interim tag removed this summer, the opportunity to really put his system into place after having to take over early last season when Paul Westphal was fired. Even though the situation wasn’t ideal, Smart shined and won over the locker room in a big way. “I’m happy,” Evans said. “He is a good coach. He worked his way up and deserves it. If you need help he’s going to let you know. He really gets us to believe to trust each other, see the big picture, and rally around each other so I’m glad that he’s back because he’s a big part.”
I continue to hear that Paul Westphal pushed very, very, very hard for the Kings to trade second-year center DeMarcus Cousins, so hard, in fact, that his persistence helped push him out the door. There was no way the Kings were moving Cousins for Nene, the Denver Nuggets center swapped to the Washington in the deal involving JaVale McGee. George Karl has long coveted Cousins. But McGee? Karl did a phenomenal job coaching Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, not to mention Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith, Carmelo Anthony, etc. But, man, I can’t wait to see George trying to coach McGee.
Has your approach changed with Smart as your coach? DeMarcus Cousins: “It has. Everything has been positive right now. Coach isn’t scared to speak his mind. He’s going to tell the truth. He’s going to tell you how it should be and how it’s not going to be. He sets his guidelines and we all go by them. That’s something that we needed from the beginning. Coach is going to be real. If you mess up he’s going to tell you, ‘You messed up.’ That’s all we needed from the beginning.” So you didn’t have that structure under Westphal? DeMarcus Cousins: “We didn’t, honestly. And it showed.”
The Westphal-Cousins dynamic was “part of the decision,” Maloof said, but hardly the overriding issue. Which is fair. The development, or lack thereof, of Cousins is huge for the future and management has a right to expect progress. But Cousins has not gotten along with a lot of people besides the head coach. The same front office knows this. “It was probably time,” Maloof said. “Paul’s a class act, just tremendous. But it just wasn’t working out. We thought it was best to make a change and give Keith a chance.”
“I think we all knew something had to be done,” Joe Maloof told David Aldridge of NBA.com and TNT. “We know we have a lot of (young) players but we were expecting to do well this season. We have a couple of guys who are in their third year in the league. We still have 60 games. We still have a shot…. Geoff came to us and said it probably was never going to work between those two guys. It was probably best to move on. (But) none of the guys were playing up to their potential. It didn’t make sense, our play on the court. It just didn’t make sense.”
The Kings needed a new voice after opening the season 2-5 under Westphal. The 61-year-old coach had lost the players this season over complaints about his limited offense and constant lineup changes, sources close to the team said. That the firing came just four days after Westphal had another in a string of blowups with Cousins – and banished Cousins from the team for a game – showed just how strained the pair’s relationship had become.
The statement not only detailed the alleged trade demand, but was also highly critical of the mercurial player who was sent home. “I didn’t know about any letter,” Maloof said by phone Thursday. “We didn’t know about any of that. … We didn’t know about the statement or anything like that. “They made a basketball decision, to sit him for a night and that’s the only thing that we do know.” When asked if he was upset by the letter, Maloof said: “Well, we’ve owned the team 13 years and it’s our belief that you keep basketball situations in house and not make them public. That did upset me. … It’s always been our history to keep things in the organization and not to make it public. As far as I was concerned, [Cousins] would sit the bench one night and that’s all there was to it.”
Kings co-owner Joe Maloof told SI.com that Paul Westphal’s statement alleging that second-year center DeMarcus Cousins demanded a trade was not approved before being released. The statement clearly played a significant part in Westphal’s ousting Thursday, and Maloof’s revelation contradicts what was said by Westphal in the wake of his decision to send Cousins home for Sunday’s game against the Hornets. Westphal previously indicated that team president Geoff Petrie had spoken with the Maloofs about the letter, but Joe said that was not the case. Petrie and Westphal did not return calls for comment, but a source with knowledge of the statement said Petrie certainly played a part in its publication.
The Kings fired Westphal Thursday after two-plus seasons as coach, cutting ties amid a slow start and an escalating dispute with Cousins that threatened to consume the locker room. Assistant Keith Smart, let go by the Golden State Warriors in April after one season at the helm, signed a deal to become the team’s new head coach. With the Cousins-Westphal spat showing no resolution, Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof finally decided to take action. Instead of trading away a promising young big man, they made Westphal the first firing of the lockout-shortened season. “We’re in a situation here where you can’t take a philosophical vacation because things are happening in real time,” Kings president of basketball operations Geoff Petrie said. “You start to keep seeing the same things over and over again, you can’t sit around and meditate forever about how you’re going to approach them or try and change them.”
The Sacramento Kings today relieved Paul Westphal of his head coaching duties, according to President of Basketball Operations Geoff Petrie. Current Kings’ assistant coach Keith Smart will serve as head coach in tonight’s game versus the Milwaukee Bucks. “I want to thank Paul for all of his effort on behalf of the Kings,” said Petrie. “Unfortunately, the overall performance level of the team has not approached what we felt was reasonable to expect. I wish him the best in his future endeavors.”
Teams interested in Cousins have called the Kings, but none believe the team will seriously consider trading him so early in his career. Several rival executives expect the Kings will eventually make a coaching change and try a tougher style with Cousins. “Once you saw that release only came from Westphal, that was a telltale sign that this was a coach venting and not a call to the league by management and ownership that they were trading Cousins,” one Eastern Conference executive told Y! Sports.
Asked again late Sunday about his reasons for the dramatic and very public spanking of Cousins, Westphal replied: “He asked to be traded. We’re going one direction. He’s going anything direction. It’s that simple.” But, of course, it’s not that simple. Cousins, in only his second year, has made significant progress by any measure. This is not the same player who was drafted with the No.5 overall pick in 2010 and showed up at the Las Vegas Summer League woefully out of shape.
“Certainly you’ve heard of the cliché, ‘the tip of the iceberg.’ Well, this is certainly the tip of the iceberg [with Cousins],” Westphal said before Sunday’s game. “You can only have so many chances before something has to be done and this time something had to be done. “I hope that DeMarcus has a change of heart and joins up with full reinstatement. … This will give him the best chance to do that, and if he chooses not to do that, then we’ll be better off going forward in the same direction. … I think DeMarcus has to do some soul searching and decide if he’s going to join me in a way that’s desirable and acceptable to this organization.”
The Sacramento Kings’ already-frustrating season evolved into an utter mess on Sunday, when coach Paul Westphal released a statement saying DeMarcus Cousins has demanded a trade and the agent for the second-year big man quickly denied the claim in an interview with SI.com. “When a player continually, aggressively, lets it be known that he is unwilling/unable to embrace traveling in the same direction as his team, it cannot be ignored indefinitely,” Westphal said in the statement. “DeMarcus Cousins has demanded to be traded. In the best interest of our team as we go forward, he has been directed by me, with the support of management, to stay home from the New Orleans game [on Sunday night].”
There has been concern since the opener against the Lakers, when the Kings prevailed because their defense stiffened in the final three minutes, not because of improved body and ball movement.Then they wilted after the first quarter in Portland. Then they wilted in the first quarter against the Chicago Bulls. Then they wilted in the first quarter against the Knicks, a team averaging 87 points a game upon arrival.Yet, there they were Saturday night, the same old Kings with a few new faces in the mix, the death-by-dribbling offense taking them down a perilous path. There was no extra pass, and often not even a second pass. There was no sense of shared purpose. There was no rotating for rebounds. There was very little movement and even less energy. There was a steamy locker room afterward.”I think we’re pretty down,” Westphal conceded. “The fact is, we have to bounce back. The games are coming fast.”
Last Friday, Kings coach Paul Westphal flew to Phoenix to inform assistant Truck Robinson he would not be re-signed for a third season, a source revealed. Robinson, the former All-Star forward, and unruly rookie DeMarcus Cousins often squared off (no punches thrown, or at least landed, as far as I know) last season. By now, you’d think unless you’re Gregg Popovich, voices of authority would know better than to challenge the incessant insolence of a potential franchise player. What was Truck thinking?
But while refunds are available, the Kings are trying to persuade corporations to accept other benefits instead, including sponsorships of other events and community outreach programs. For instance, the Kings offered a meet-and-greet with coach Paul Westphal to Jeff Hallsten of Hallsten Corp., a North Highlands manufacturer that signed on as a sponsor during the spring rush. “They’re really working hard to keep people plugged in,” Hallsten said. And for Western Health Advantage, a $100,000 sponsor, the compensation could include an appearance by the Kings strength and conditioning coach at a wellness program. “It’s a little bit of make-good,” said Rick Heron, spokesman for Western Health.
SI.com: As this process has unfolded and now that it seems like the team could stay in Sacramento, what kind of sense and vibe do you get from the locals when you’re doing events and around town? Westphal: The overwhelming sense that I get is how important the Kings are to a great many people in the Sacramento area. There’s a real void that would be created if things aren’t worked out and there are a lot of people who want to do everything they can to be able to say that, whatever happens, they won’t look back with regret. They want this team. They want to support it. They enjoy basketball, and they want to do their part. That’s the No. 1 thing I get out of the interaction I’ve had with fans.
SI.com: Kevin has impressed a lot of folks — myself included — for a while now, but what has this been like from your perspective? Paul Westphal: I’m not sure of all the inner workings of the political world that he’s involved in, but I just know that he’s an idealistic person who cares very deeply about making positive efforts in the world. He’s highly intelligent and willing to set a goal and working toward it. He’s real systematic in accomplishing the goals he sets. He’s an impressive person, and I’ve always known that he was an idealistic warrior.
SI.com: What about for you? Are you glad to see there’s progress in Sacramento now, or how do you approach that aspect? Westphal: Oh, I absolutely look at it through the eyes of the people who have supported the team in Sacramento and want to see it remain there. I think that when people care that much about something like basketball — we all know it’s not life and death — but the Kings have done a lot to unite this community, and there are a lot of hopes that can continue [if they’re there]. How can you not root for that?
Scotty Robertson, a former Suns assistant coach, passed away last week of lung cancer at age 81 and was laid to rest Sunday in Ruston, La. Robertson was a Suns scout before moving to the bench when Paul Westphal took over for Cotton Fitzsimmons. Of course, those were the days before the Internet and 24/7 news cycles when a reporter could sit courtside with an assistant coach before games and talk basketball rather than having to worry about “blogging” or feeding the monster that is Twitter.
Basketball lost a member of its global family when former Suns assistant coach Scotty Robertson passed away this week. He was 81 years old. Robertson served as a Suns assistant coach from 1989-95, which was preceded by stints as the head coach of the Jazz, Bulls and Pistons. Before coaching in the NBA, Robertson coached in high school and in college, leading Louisiana Tech to three Gulf States Conference Championships during the 1970s. “The overwhelming thing about Scotty was his incredible love for the game,” former Suns Head Coach and current Kings Head Coach Paul Westphal said. “He was extremely innovative and never really received the credit that he deserved, despite his tireless work behind the scenes.”
How do feel Westphal handled the team this season with injuries and managing a young team? Geoff Petrie: I think Paul’s got a great capacity for understanding and patience and maintains a pretty even-keeled approach to things. Obviously when you don’t win a lot and you have stretches where you don’t win at all, that’s hard on everybody, but I think coaches are the ones that are closest to it. Trying to maintain your perspective and trying to keep a group together, I think that was a real big focus of his as the season went along.
What was your and coach Paul Westphal’s last meeting with Omri Casspi like? He wasn’t happy with his role at the end of the season. Geoff Petrie: I guess he was happy that the team played better and was winning more games, but he was frustrated that his playing time had really diminished from what it had been two-thirds of the season. We did have a discussion, which usually comes up with some players, about maybe it’s better if I play somewhere else. But a lot of that gets borne out of frustration. I think he still has a chance to be a pretty valuable contributor because there are some things he does really well. But, again, there are areas of his game he needs to continue to work on to become more well-rounded in terms of the things he can do out there. He’s a competitive guy, he’s got a lot of pride, and we just left it at that.
Paul Westphal On whether or not they will be able to talk to the players more before a potential lockout: “No we will for sure. Certainly we educate players. I have experience directly from players during a prolonged summer vacation who let themselves go and really ruined their career. Certainly tell all the precautionary tales we can to the players about how important it is to treat this like a job everyday and that their livelihood depends on their physical conditioning and how seriously they take their improvement. Just staying the same is not an option because if you do that somebody is going to pass you up. We have those kinds of conversations and stay on the players about that.”
Paul Westphal How his exit meeting went with DeMarcus Cousins: “It was one of our longer exit meetings. He knows how talented he is and he has been having people telling him for a long time if you do this if you would just stop doing that. He has heard that, but we needed to tell him that again. Geoff (Petrie) and I sat in the meeting and talked about his conditioning, his work habits, his learning to leave the officials alone, and all the things that people can see or can’t see about what DeMarcus needs to do to really take a step into the stratosphere as one of the best players in the NBA. We leave him with the understanding that we will do anything that he will let us do to help him get there and that ultimately every step that can be taken has to be taken by him. No person can make another person push for and strive for every last ounce of potential turned into achievement. That has to come from inside and we challenged him to let everything he’s got in him come out so he can look back at his career and next year without any regrets.”