The news came out of Sacramento today that Kings general manager Vlade Divac has fired head coach Dave Joerger. Despite leading a young core to 39 wins and the franchise’s best season since 2005-06, Joerger finds himself without a job a day after the NBA regular season ended.
A lot of the speculation is that Divac was looking to make room for Lakers head coach Luke Walton, whose job security has long been in question as Los Angeles is not in the postseason for the 6th straight year. Before failing to reach the playoffs with LeBron James, Walton filled in for Steve Kerr at Golden State, leading the Warriors to a 24-0 start in 2015-16.
USA Today reporter Sam Amick confirmed that Walton is the top choice in Sacramento.
With all that said, what’s Joerger’s future. As DJ Siddiqi of CBS Sports writes, he’s had bad luck despite decent success as an NBA head coach.
The 45-year-old has had a rough go of things as a head coach in the NBA. After leading the Memphis Grizzlies to playoff appearances in all three of his season there, he was still fired at the conclusion of the 2015-16 season — with one year left on his contract.
In three years as the Kings head coach, Joerger compiled a record of 98-148. In six seasons as a head coach, Joerger holds an overall record of 245-247.
In fairness, Joerger did inherit a Memphis franchise that made the Western Conference finals the year before he arrived. With that said, the Grizzlies have fizzled with David Fizdale, Joerger’s replacement.
In addition, he has put the Kings in position to push for the playoffs next season. Before he arrived in Sacramento, the franchise hadn’t won 38 games since 2007-08. After a 32-50 and 27-55 campaign, he pushed the team to over .500 by the month of March before injuries to Marvin Bagley and others submarined postseason chances.
Joerger is as qualified, if not more so, than many of the betting favorites to take over in Los Angeles next season.
The odd-on favorite is Miami assistant Juwan Howard, who played with LeBron James during his time with the Heat. He also played at Michigan with Rob Pelinka, the Lakers general manager who may be promoted to team president after Magic Johnson suddenly retired.
He has made Miami one of the better defensive teams in the league, but he’s far from having head coaching experience. In fact, he’s seen more as a player developer than X’s and O’s guy at this point.
Walton had not made the playoffs as a full-time head coach yet, while Jason Kidd’s Milwaukee teams regressed during his time there.
That means that Joerger should be competing with names such as Tyronn Lue, who guided the Cavaliers to their first-ever NBA title in 2016, or Tom Thibodeau, who is consistent presence in the postseason.
To be clear, there is currently no official word on Joerger being a candidate for the Los Angeles job, but his previous success in hard situations shows that he’s a capable developer of young talent. With Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and others surrounding James, he may be the guy that can find a second superstar alongside the King.