George Karl: I never 'got into a good place' with DeMarcus Cousins

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Monday, May 2, 2016
ESPN

George Karl reflected on his rocky tenure as the Kings' coach in a recent interview with the Sacramento Bee, saying he did not feel empowered by the front office and acknowledging that he never "got into a good place" with mercurial star DeMarcus Cousins.

Karl touched on a number of topics in his interview with the Bee, which was published Saturday, including his strained relationships with Cousins and Sacramento's front office.

"I never felt I got into a good place with Cuz," said Karl, who was fired April 14 after going 44-68 in parts of two seasons with the Kings. "Some of that was my stupidity when I said that no player is untradable.

"I still believe that. But I should have been smart enough not to say it, and I in no way, at any time, thought DeMarcus was going to get traded."

Karl nearly lost his job on multiple occasions during the season before general manager Vlade Divac ultimately decided to make the coaching change last month, sources told ESPN. Karl told the Bee that his awkward position in Sacramento stemmed from a lack of support from Divac and the rest of the front office.

"Eighty percent of the time, I think the Kings did what had to be done," Karl said. "But I'm old-school enough to think that a coach has to feel powerful, has to feel supported -- and I never felt that level of support. ... Vlade has a helluva task ahead of him. The roster needs to be tinkered with. He is going to be in for an NBA free agency unlike anything we have ever seen.

"If the decision is made to keep Cuz, you have to put the right players around him. But it can't be about Cousins. You have to make basketball decisions."

Karl also recounted apostgame incidentthat took place on Nov. 8, when Cousins directed a profanity-laced outburst toward the veteran coach after a loss to the San Antonio Spurs. Karl told the Bee that Divac was in the locker room to witness the tirade but shot down the coach's request to suspend Cousins, opting instead to fine the All-Star center.

"That night the bomb went off," Karl said. "Vlade was right there. When they supported Cousins instead of me, I felt, 'OK, I'm in the compromise position. Cuz has the power.'

"They sent that message many times, too many times sent it to the players. And the players wanted someone to stand up to Cuz, and they wanted it to be their coach. But at that point, I realized that you either compromise or you blow it up, and my job was to make us a better basketball team and get to the end of the year."

Karl, 63, praised Cousins' talent throughout the interview, noting that his offensive game and conditioning have both improved. But the former NBA Coach of the Year also noted that Sacramento's next coach will face similar challenges if the dysfunctional relationship between that role and the front office does not improve.

"Whether or not they trade Cuz, they have to empower their coach," Karl said. "They have to let him coach. It takes a few years to build a program. It becomes a culture, an energy force.

"[Owner] Vivek [Ranadive] wanted magic to happen. But in the NBA, magic happens once in a while -- and usually is associated with Larry Bird, Magic Johnson or Michael Jordan. I think you can win with him [Cousins], but my thing is, how long is it going to take to get there? Then, how long before you become a winning team? I think there are faster ways to go."

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