The Sacramento Kings and George Karl have agreed to the framework of a deal for him to take over as coach, a person familiar with the negotiations said Wednesday.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the discussions were private. The plan is for Karl to coach the Kings in their first game following the All-Star break Feb. 20 at home against Boston, meaning Tyrone Corbin will be coaching his final game for Sacramento on Wednesday night at Milwaukee.
Karl is attending funeral services for former North Carolina coach Dean Smith this week. The Kings are expected to announce the deal in the coming days after final terms have been agreed upon and the contract has been signed.
Karl will be Sacramento’s third coach this season.
The Kings (18-33) made the surprising move to fire Michael Malone in December after an 11-13 start in his second season as coach, even though they had shown progress until All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins was sidelined for an extended period with viral meningitis. Sacramento slid even further after promoting Corbin from lead assistant, losing 12 of its last 14 games and 20 of 27 overall since Malone’s dismissal.
Karl is a proven winner in the league and a familiar face for Sacramento’s front office.
Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro and assistant general manager Mike Bratz are among those who worked with him in Denver, and team adviser Chris Mullin played for Karl with the Golden State Warriors from 1986-88.
Karl last coached in the 2012-13 season, when he won NBA Coach of the Year with the Nuggets before being fired following a first-round playoff loss to the Warriors. D’Alessandro left Denver that summer and brought Bratz with him to Sacramento.
The Nuggets made the postseason all nine years under Karl. They advanced past the first round only once during his tenure, losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2009 Western Conference finals.
Karl, who has been working as an analyst for ESPN, has let it be known the last two months that he wants another shot on the sidelines. He has openly talked about his interest and recently thanked fans in Sacramento and Orlando — which fired coach Jacque Vaughn last week — for their support on Twitter.
The 63-year-old Karl, a cancer survivor, is one of nine coaches in league history to eclipse 1,000 wins. He has 1,131 victories as a head coach, with stops in Cleveland, Golden State, Seattle and Milwaukee, earning a reputation for turning around teams.
Sacramento certainly presents another one of those challenges.
The Kings are headed for a ninth straight losing season and are trying to rebuild around Cousins, who has a history of clashing with coaches but was close with Malone. Cousins clearly doesn’t like being dragged into the situation, though, venting his frustration to reporters after hitting the game-winning shot against Phoenix on Sunday night and releasing a statement through his agents at Relativity Sports to several media outlets Tuesday.
“I wasn’t consulted when the decision was made to fire Mike Malone and I’m not being consulted now,” Cousins said in the statement. “I just hope they make a decision soon and stick with it. George Karl is an experienced, proven coach and if that is who they chose to coach this team, I will support it. I do not like all these discussions in the media while we have a coach in place. It is a distraction and not fair to Coach Corbin and this team.”
Kings owner Vivek Ranadive, Mullin and D’Alessandro had discussed Karl’s candidacy since December. They’d also weighed whether to conduct a lengthier search in the offseason when more coaches might be available and have the benefit of training camp to prepare.
But with the Kings continuing to fall into irrelevance in the deep Western Conference, they ultimately decided to make another switch now.
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP
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