One of the best things about a retread head coach, is that we can bring in an expert from his former team to give us a little more insight. Greg Wissinger of SacTown Royalty was kind enough to offer up some thoughts on the former coach of the Sacramento Kings in this Q&A.
With the Mike Malone press conference to come a little later this morning (it should be aired on Altitude TV around 9:45 a.m.), let's chew on some of these tasty nuggets.
1.) What were your thoughts when Michael Malone was fired from the Kings? Did you agree or disagree?
Greg Wissinger: I was blown away. The Kings were off to their best start in years and looked like they might legitimately challenge for a playoff spot. It was heartbreaking. I love Michael Malone as a coach. He's a genuine guy who gave insightful, honest answers to the media. He's the first to take blame and the first to give credit to others. I think he's an awesome coach, and I'm still recovering from the Kings firing him. I'm happy the Kings have George Karl, but I'm not 100% sure if replacing Malone with Karl helps the franchise long-term. Firing Malone was ultimately the Kings' biggest non-Maloof mistake in years.
1A.) If Pete D'Alessando and Malone were in the same room... What would happen? Ha ha Seriously, hear lots of stuff from Sacramento based reporters on the two not really getting along and they're both now in Denver. A reunion!
GW: Malone is a pro, so he would probably be the bigger man. But if the doors were closed I'm sure he'd also speak his mind. He's fiery. Pete, meanwhile, would blame the whole thing on Vivek Ranadivé.
As for the reunion, I think this just confirms that Pete isn't going to be heavily involved in day-to-day basketball operations. Don't believe the spin that Malone was fired from the Kings against Pete's wishes.
2.) We hear Malone is defensive minded. Do you agree? And what does that even mean - what schemes did he try to implement? Did they work?
GW: I think he is very defensive minded, in that he actually cares about defense. It's not a buzzword for him. He views defense as the key to creating offense. All of this is the type of thing you hear from every coach every summer, but he actually showed results. He got DeMarcus Cousins buying in on defense to such an extent that Cousins has openly complained since Malone's firing about the Kings needing to get back to being defensively-focused.
3.) The Nuggets have stated over-and-over that they want to get back to taking advantage of the altitude in Denver. They have signified they want to play with pace and space (the fancy NBA buzzwords!). Can Malone be an innovative coach on offense?
GW: The Kings finished the season 8th in the NBA in pace, with a rating of 95.4 according to basketball-reference.com. Mike Malone's Kings, meanwhile, had a pace of 95.7 according to NBA.com/stats. So while the need for improved pace was cited as the reason for firing Malone, it clearly wasn't the true problem. I think he can play at a higher pace, but I also think he tailors his coaching to the players he has to work with. Malone found a way to be successful with the players the Kings have. Players who many felt were vastly outperforming expectations.
I think Malone is a coach who can get buy-in from players. I can't fairly assess how creative his offense will be for Denver, but he found a way to get the best from Cousins and Rudy Gay, who have both been misused by many coaches. I think he's innovative, but that may not always mean flashy.
4.) What frustrated you about Malone while he was with the Kings?
GW: Other than the abrupt end of his tenure? There were times when the Kings played ugly basketball. Once ugly basketball turned into the Kings winning games, there weren't as many complaints, but he does play a slower pace at times to control the game.
5.) I know I am not asking something, so tell me what I'm missing about Malone?
GW: If you believe the Nuggets' issues to be caused by a lost locker room, Malone is the perfect hire. He completely changed the culture in Sacramento in less than one season. It was an incredible transformation. He related to players and earned their trust. He stood up for his team. He inspires players to achieve more. I think you landed a really good young coach. Don't let his record in Sacramento fool you, you guys got a good one.
Big thanks to Greg for taking the time to answer a few questions for us.
If you can't wait for the Malone presser, here is the one he had with the Kings!