Kings Pick Up Paul Westphal's Option
But the coaching carousel has finally come to a stop, as the Kings announced Monday they have exercised the third-year option (2011-12) for Paul Westphal that is worth $2 million. For those who hadn't noticed, Westphal is the organization's fifth head coach since 2006. And while he and Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie have a long ways to go to build this team up to the level reached with former coach Rick Adelman at the helm before his 2006 departure, Westphal told FanHouse he's thrilled he'll have that chance.
"I'm very happy and excited about it," Westphal said by phone minutes after the news was announced. "I'm glad to be on board with the direction this organization is going."
With the Kings having been out of the playoffs since 2006, they're hoping leading Rookie of the Year candidate Tyreke Evans and the team's young core can develop into a perennial postseason contender in the years to come. Westphal, who was hired last summer after ending his last head coaching job in Seattle in 2000 when he was fired, has been lauded by his bosses for changing the culture in Sacramento after the team won a franchise-low 17 games last season. It's something Kings management clearly didn't see happening in past regimes, with Eric Musselman, Reggie Theus and interim Kenny Natt all falling short in their attempts to earn extensions such as these.
"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)."
Nonetheless, the Kings know they have a long ways to go.
Westphal's contract reflects that reality, as he had recently earned an incentive for the team's 25th win that brought him closer to a $2 million salary from his base of $1.5 million (a league-low). He had a similar incentive for a 30th win, but the Kings are 25-55 and have just two games remaining.
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.
"The focus of this year was improvement and finding out what we have and what we need to do as we go forward," Westphal said. "I think certain things just had to happen - we had to learn how to compete, improve defense, improve rebounding, find out strengths and weakness of our young players. I think we did all those things.
"Now we have to build on that foundation we have and learn how to win. That's one that everybody, including coaches, wants today, or yesterday. We're anxious to turn the corner."
Ironically, the Kings host Houston Monday night in what is the first game back to Sacramento for departed shooting guard Kevin Martin. The sixth-year player was traded to the Rockets at the February trade deadline in a deal that netted the Kings forward Carl Landry. And while Landry has been a good fit thus far, the struggles have continued as the Kings are 7-19 since making the move.
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