Dave Joerger has been around for a while, and while he hasn’t gotten the acknowledgment he deserves, he has an impressive track record.
He was an assistant coach for the Memphis Grizzlies for 6 years before becoming the head coach taking over for Lionel Hollins after an appearance to the Western Conference finals in 2013.
Joerger stepped in and did a good job with a team that featured Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, and Zach Randolph. He started off with back to back 50 win seasons and made the playoffs in all 3 years, but only won one playoff series in his tenure. This led to him being fired from Memphis and going to Sacramento in 2016.
The Kings were very dysfunctional at this time but said goodbye to DeMarcus Cousins mid-season and started the rebuild. It was clear this was not a team competing for the playoffs but more so for draft position. With this in mind, it is hard to blame Joerger as the Kings won 32 games and then 27 games in his first 2 seasons. The most impressive coaching job Joerger had by my estimation was last year with the Kings.
The Kings improved by 12 wins which was the largest improvement by a team in the Western Conference last year. People have to remember that they could have even won more games, but started to tank towards the end of the year once they lost the possibility of making the playoffs to the Clippers.
Another thing to realize is that it was the best record the Kings had in 13 years. As I mentioned earlier, the Kings were dysfunctional. Not just when Joerger took over but for 10 years before that even.
Now, look at how the Kings were able to attract free agents this summer like Harrison Barnes, Trevor Ariza, Dewayne Dedmon, and others. This would not have happened if Joerger hadn’t rebuilt the culture and given this team an identity. Some coaches have a system and need specific players to fit in that system.
One of the reasons why I am so high on Joerger is because he showed a willingness to adapt to his player’s strengths. In Memphis, they were known as “Grit and Grind.” For him to go from that to this young team that was built to play fast, he wasn’t stubborn to change.
The Kings played at the 5th fastest pace in the NBA last year and were 2nd before they lost the opportunity to play in the playoffs. The Kings surpassed many and certainly my expectations from them last year being the 9th seed in the Western Conference.
Most of the credit goes to the players, and rightfully so, but Dave Joerger didn’t get any. Part of being a coach is building an identity, culture, and getting your players to play hard every night, which he did. Sacramento overlooked that and decided to move on from him.
The Kings are not going to finish as well as they did last year partially because Marvin Bagley and De’Aaron Fox already getting injured but partially because they decided to hire Luke Walton instead of retaining Dave Joerger.
This can snowball on the King’s future. If this year goes sideways and the players lose confidence in management, then all the work they have done the last couple of years could become a waste.
The bottom line is Dave Joerger has the resume to be a head coach in the NBA. Now he just needs the opportunity.
Written by Bradley Patten
All team and player stats found on Basketball-Reference (https://www.basketball-reference.com)
Photo credits to Sergio Estrada / USA TODAY Sports (https://www.inforum.com/sports/basketball/1003743-Kings-fire-coach-Dave-Joerger-after-three-seasons)