Earlier today, the Kings put out a press release that the organization has picked up the option for Paul Westphal’s 3rd season as Kings head coach. Sam Amick also wrote something at Fanhouse (that I’ll be talking about in a bit), and Jason Jones basically adds what the press release had.
This is what Geoff Petrie said (via the press release):
“We’re all excited about the new direction Paul has given our team and his ability to keep our players focused during the course of the season,” said Petrie. “I think he’s done a tremendous job of helping us turn the corner. My congratulations to him and his staff. We continue to look forward to an ongoing great relationship as we rebuild the Kings.”
Awhile ago, TZ had a post about Paul Westphal the “decider”. The reason I disagreed with that is because it was pretty clear from the get go that Geoff Petrie valued Paul Westphal’s opinion. And it’s an important point that shouldn’t be overlooked. (I’m also not taking a shot at TZ for that either. I just simply disagree that the Martin trade illustrated that. I think the Tyreke Evans draft pick is what the original signal was.) How a head coach works with the GM/Prez of Basketball Ops (in this case) is important. Adelman had that relationship with Petrie. Muss, Theus and Natt did not. It’s as simple as that.
But here’s Westphal, being “heard loud and clear” as the team’s top veteran and one-time franchise face gets traded away, and a week later benching the team’s 21-year-old one-time Golden Boy center for fairly innocuous comments parrotted by teammates. This is Paul Westphal the Decider. I’d advise you get used to him.
This isn’t a criticism. It’s an analysis. Take it as such.
Yuh. It is an analysis. A very good analysis at that. (As you would expect.) It’s an analysis that I agree with, on it’s face, makes a lot of sense. However, when you start stripping at various things, it was also clear that Martin wanted out, that the fit with Evans wasn’t ideal (as good as the fit with Aaron Brooks for instance–read this wonderful analysis by Rahat Huq of Red94), and that his bad body language did contribute. In otherwords, that ship had sailed.
Paul Westphal may have not pushed for a trade, but he certainly didn’t keep it from happening. No doubt this is true. But ultimately, this is Geoff Petrie’s decision to make. Geoff Petrie made it. That’s where I disagree with Tom about any point in that Martin trade. Ultimately, PW is the coach and GP is the GM. Either, GM makes the personnel decisions with PW’s input. A good coach/GM tandem always works together. Each see’s each other to be critical in the success of the team.
That’s where I think today is such an interesting time to announce that PW had his option picked up. Maybe it was done today because of the last home game of the season, and the team wanted to use the day’s events to help pick that momentum up. But I wonder if that would have mattered given that the team is on the road tomorrow and the announcements could have made then. I don’t think this is a parting shot at Kevin Martin, but I certainly do think it’s partly a message aimed at Dan Fegan. I don’t think Geoff Petrie had much interest in maintaining a quality relationship after Martin retained Fegan’s services as Martin’s agent.
So even though I think this is a small sidepoint, I’m going to mention it anyway.
Onto Amick’s piece:
“There hasn’t been one day when I haven’t felt comfortable here,” Westphal said. “It’s been a really good, working environment with the Maloofs (the owners), Geoff and the players … Geoff has always been positive (in regards to the job Westphal is doing).”
That quote suggests that PW, once hired (regardless of the route getting there), was always in tune with GP & the players. Half of this roster was brought in by GP & PW. The remaining remnants that PW inherited were players that he thought had a future as a NBA roster. The remnant players, other than Martin, are all still here. This group (except Cisco & Beno) is still young. However, I think it was always likely that the team would trade a player or two along the way to improve. Particularly if Martin didn’t jibe with Tyreke Evans (I really didn’t see that coming), or if one of the bigs didn’t develop well along the way (pick your poison with JT & Shawes). Still, Paul Westphal is a guy who exhibits leadership as a head coach. Even if you don’t agree with him, it’s hard to argue that this team hasn’t improved in some important ways from last season. (Obviously talent has a lot to do with that.)
This was the money shot by Sam:
There’s yet another incentive in Westphal’s contract that is now irrelevant, as he would have had his third year automatically guaranteed if the Kings won a combined 60 games in his first two seasons. That financial carrot says plenty about the state of affairs, as the expectation levels are moderate and patience for progress still great.
First, I’ve seen it mentioned by a few people that the Kings could have waited. Personally, because of the automatic bullet that the Kings have to pick up PW’s contract for the 3rd year, I think this is a much better scenario. Paul Westphal has not been offered a new contract. He’s simply will be paid for the full 3 years of his contract.
The other part of this is that the Kings clearly have put incentives, reachable incentives, to give reason for Westphal to push the team to win. (I doubt he wouldn’t do that.) Having done so, I think the team, as Sam noted, is not just showing patience, but a more unified approach.
Since late 2008 when Jason Levien was hired at the behest of Geoff Petrie, to the firing of Reggie Theus with little to no interference from the Maloof’s, to the financial deals that helped the bottom line in an awful season, to the hiring process and ultimate hiring of Paul Westphal, the draft/trades that have helped this team improve this season, the removal of John Thomas so a more flexible and reasonable approach can be had in selling tickets, and progress on the arena front, this is shaping up to be another successful era in Kings history if it can continue.
If for nothing else, you have a draft pick, cap space, and young players whom you can use in conjunction with cap space to get a quality player in return. With the prospect of lowered ticket prices so that Kings fans can fill Arco once again, with a new arena on the horizon, a better team, and a stable franchise, it’s all there. Also, even though it’s not really been noted by fans (as far as I can tell), long time bloggers like TZ will tell you that the relationship between him and the franchise has evolved and improved as the years has gone by. (Call that a parting shot to John Thomas if you will.) It’s also helped Zach Harper in turn as he generally goes to the games and spends time in the locker room.
Paul Westphal’s option being picked up doesn’t have much to do with improvement and relationships with bloggers. It does signal, though, that the team is always looking to evolve and utilize all the tools available to make fans more integrated and comfortable with the franchise.
Even if the option doesn’t signal that, taking care of the basketball end is always important. Evans believes in Westphal. So does Garcia, and JT, and maybe even Hawes (I have my doubts), Donte, Omri and Beno. You have to have your players work with your coaches. It’s part of the deal. Maybe 25 wins (and who knows what will happen tonight or tomorrow) isn’t good enough for you. At this point, though, 25 wins suggests how far this franchise has come in one season, and how far it will have to travel to get back to a championship level team. Either way, looking back, I think this 18 month stretch from early February ’09 to July ’10 will be the time frame in which Sacramento Kings basketball is cemented forever.
Paul Westphal has a lot to do with that.