SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Sacramento’s best season in 13 years wasn’t enough to save coach Dave Joerger’s job.
General manager Vlade Divac fired Joerger on Thursday after he helped develop the young Kings into playoff contenders before ultimately falling short in the franchise’s 13th straight losing season.
“I think he did a great job to make that step,” Divac said. “But moving forward, I just felt like we had to go a different direction. It’s been three years and we made some progress. This year was a good season but I think we could do more, especially after All-Star break.”
Divac said he had been contemplating the decision to change coaches for a while and ultimately made it after the team stumbled to the finish with a 9-16 record after the All-Star break. The poor stretch run left Sacramento with a 39-43 record, nine games out of a playoff spot after being tied for the eighth spot in the West heading into the final game before the break.
The Kings had their most wins since having a 44-38 record in coach Rick Adelman’s final season in 2005-06. That ended a run of eight straight playoff berths and Sacramento hasn’t been back to the postseason since for the NBA’s longest active drought.
“After the All-Star break, I felt very confident we’d be in the race and we were in the race,” Divac said. “Unfortunately, we fell short.”
Divac made the move official just hours after he was given an extension through the 2022-23 season by owner Vivek Ranadivé. Divac took over as GM before the 2015-16 season and helped bring in some of the key pieces that have led to the improvement this year, including guards Buddy Hield and De’Aaron Fox and big men Marvin Bagley III, Willie Cauley-Stein and Harry Giles.
Divac also made a trade this season to acquire forward Harrison Barnes from Dallas in hopes of making a playoff push but the team faltered down the stretch.
“Vlade has been vital to what we are building here and I am so pleased to announce his extension,” Ranadivé said. “Throughout his entire career, Vlade is someone who has always made those around him better, both on and off the court. I look forward to our bright future ahead.”
Joerger was the ninth coach since Adelman was fired in 2006 with none able to post a winning record or a playoff berth. In fact, since moving to Sacramento before the 1985-86 season, the only winning seasons for the Kings came in Adelman’s eight seasons at the helm highlighted by a trip to the Western Conference final in 2002.
Divac is now counting on coach No. 10 being the one that can get the team back to the level it had under Adelman, when the Kings were a contender for several years and played an entertaining brand of basketball.
“The next level is to be a team that is going to be a playoff team and down the road a contender,” Divac said. “I think our kids are very talented. We have to believe in them and give them a chance to take advantage of their work and talent.”
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