|Mike Malone is heading from Golden State to another California team as the new head coach of the Sacramento Kings. (nba.si.com)|
BDD's Friday Roundtable is a weekly discussion among a group of our writers on a trending NBA or college basketball topic.
I love Hornacek-to-Phoenix, but the Sacramento Kings have quietly made a coaching carousel coup by hiring Mike Malone. The former Golden State assistant is fresh off a strong run into the playoffs with a Warriors team featuring young principle players, much like the current Kings squad. Malone made a connection with turn-GSW guard Monta Ellis and Sacramento brass must be hopeful their new head coach can form the same kind of rapport with mercurial big man DeMarcus Cousins, while fostering a positive growth in the Kings' young backcourt.
Recent Kings coaches have not enjoyed long tenures or peaceful locker rooms. Enter Malone, who was recently part of turning another underachieving franchise in Northern California. Young, first-time head coaches always have a buzz around them, for better or worse, and pique the interest of the basketball community, free agents included. Malone's hiring makes Sacramento a slightly more appealing destination for players on the open market. Ellis is interested in re-connecting and, although bringing him in would conflict with Isaiah Thomas' development, it is a start for a suffering organization. With the Kings officially staying in SacTown, the pressure is on Malone to help steer the franchise in a winning direction. Some of the pieces are there, some still need to be acquired, but the biggest necessity has been fulfilled: getting a coach who has come out on top when encountering a situation like the one facing the Kings. Malone is that coach.
Right off the bat, I think you can remove Steve Clifford's name from contention. Not that I think he's a bad coach or will do a poor job, but he's walking into a nightmare in Charlotte with a team that has gone 28-120 the past two years. Clifford doesn't have much experience and even the league's best coaches would need a lot of time, patience and Tylenol to fix that program.
I actually like all three of the other hires, and since all three are first-time head coaches, it's difficult to predict which ones will adapt to the new leadership role the quickest and easiest. I agree with Alex that both Jeff Hornacek and Mike Malone are strong fits with the Suns and Kings, but I also think Mike Budenholzer can be the type of coach the Atlanta Hawks need. Budenholzer does not have the name power of Hornacek, but he did spent the past 17 years with Gregg Popovich in San Antonio, and if there is a current coach in the league to study and learn from for 17 years, it's Popovich. More importantly, Budenholzer was not just present for the Spurs' championship years. He was on the sideline to experience that 20-62 team in 1996-97 and watch how it transformed into a frequent NBA Finals contender.
It depends on free agency, but most likely Budenholzer will have a more experienced squad than Hornacek and Malone, and definitely one that has seem more success than the Suns and Kings. But still Atlanta is looking to take that next step from just making the playoffs to winning and advancing, and Budenholzer may be the guy to do it.
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