Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive is on a fool's errand if he thinks that Hall of Famer Chris Mullin - an advisor for the franchise - is the best man for the vacated head coaching job in California's state capitol. Instead, Ranadive and the Kings' brass (which includes former Denver Nuggets front office executives Pete D'Alessandro and Mike Bratz) should look outside their organization to the man who currently ranks sixth in all-time wins for NBA head coaches with 1,131 victories: former Nuggets head coach George Karl.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge Chris Mullin fan. Watching Mullin throughout my formative years as an emerging NBA fan, Mullin ranked among my favorite non-Nuggets. I loved his game. Loved his flattop. Loved his thick Brooklyn accent. And loved the "RUN TMC" Warriors of Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Mullin of the early 1990s, guided by a mad scientist head coach in Don Nelson. I'll never forget opening night in 1990 when the "RUN TMC" Warriors faced off against our very own Nuggets at the old McNichols Sports Arena and beat Denver 162-158 (not a typo) with Hardaway (32 points), Richmond (29) and Mullin (38) combining for 99 points. The next time they played in Denver the Nuggets actually won, 150-145 (again, not a typo) and Mullin had 37 points. Thank you, Paul Westhead.
But I loved Kiki Vandeweghe as a player, too. And Isiah Thomas. And Magic Johnson. And Clyde Drexler. And Dan Issel. And Terry Porter.
What do all those names have in common? They, like countless star players before them, were all terrific basketball players who didn't necessarily translate into good coaches (with apologies to Issel for his admirable run as the Nuggets head coach from 1992 through 1994). And while Mullin shouldn't automatically be penalized thanks to the litany of previous star-players-turned-crummy-head-coaches, when will NBA teams wake up and realize that advisors / general managers (like Kevin McHale, Thomas, Vandeweghe and Issel), newly retired players (like Jason Kidd and Derek Fisher) and broadcasters (like Doc Rivers and Mark Jackson) with zero coaching experience, even at the assistant level, often fail big time in their first go-around as head coaches?
Wouldn't the Kings be better served bringing in a sure-thing like Karl while letting Mullin sit at Karl's side as lead assistant for three years and build a culture of success for the present as well as the future? And even though the "sure thing" line probably just made Mark Kiszla's head explode, Karl is the closest thing to it among all available NBA head coaches.
After all, Karl has done this before ... and right here in Denver!
As most Nuggets fans remember, the 2004-05 Nuggets squad that Karl inherited wasn't dissimilar from this year's Kings squad, with the exception being that today's NBA Western Conference is slightly more brutally competitive than the Western Conference of 10 years ago. Like this year's Kings roster, the 2004-05 Nuggets had a shoot-first / ball-stopping small forward (Carmelo Anthony), a mercurial big man (Kenyon Martin), a serviceable but not spectacular point guard (Andre Miller), some high draft pick busts (DerMarr Johnson and Rodney White) and a tantalizingly talented but inconsistent backup big man (Nene Hilario). And somewhat like this year's Kings, the 2004-05 Nuggets had put themselves in a giant hole before Karl showed up to coach the remaining 50 games. When Karl took over the Nuggets in 2005 they were 17-25 and went on to finish 49-33 ... 42-8 under Karl, the best mid-season coaching replacement in NBA history.
At 11-14 now, the Kings aren't exactly in a "giant hole" like the aforementioned 2004-05 Nuggets. But if interim "coach" Tyrone Corbin and his 112-147 career coaching record sticks around much longer the Kings could easily be 17-25 themselves in a few weeks. Just watch.
Prior to the Kings' best player DeMarcus Cousins going down with viral meningitis, which has cost him 10 games and counting, the Kings - under previous head coach Mike Malone - were the darling upstarts of the Western Conference at a very respectable 9-6. Sans Cousins, they're 2-8. And yet Malone, by all accounts one of the more inspiring young coaches throughout the NBA, got fired the other day. Reportedly due to differences with ownership rather than management. And now Ranadive is allegedly meddling in the coaching search and is hand-picking Mullin (although it should be noted that Mullin and D'Alessandro are close friends going back to their days at St. John's University playing and working, respectively, for the legendary coach Lou Carnesecca).
Per a Tuesday night report by ESPN's Chris Broussard, Mullin is thus far resisting Ranadive's offer as he doesn't want to jump into coaching mid-season. Probably a good move on Mullin's part. Karl, meanwhile, has made no secret (to me directly and others) of his desire to coach again and, in my humble opinion, is the perfect fit for the Kings. Not only would Karl thrive if given the opportunity to play Western Conference underdog, but he would instantaneously make Kings basketball fun again ... something it hasn't been since Chris Webber, Vlade Divac, Jason "White Chocolate" Williams and Peja Stojakovic departed a decade ago. And with Ranadive recently breaking ground on a new state-of-the-art arena, doesn't he as owner want the cowbell atmosphere back in Sactown sooner than later to get those asses in the seats when the new building opens?
If Mullin continues to resist Ranadive's overtures, the Kings' owner should give up the pursuit, bring Karl in right away and watch the Kings once-exciting-now-aimless season get back on track. As D'Alessandro and Bratz (if asked) would tell Ranadive, things were pretty damn good for pro basketball in Denver when Karl was here.
And if Ranadive doesn't want their advice, he should just ask Nuggets fans what their thoughts are now that we live in a post-Karl world in Nuggets Nation.