Kings hire Musselman to replace Adelman as coach

Updated: June 3, 2006, 6:01 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

The Sacramento Kings hired Memphis Grizzlies assistant Eric Musselman on Friday as their new head coach.

Kings Choose 'Basketball-a-holic'
The Maloofs, as they weighed this gamble, backed away from the boldest possible choice and gravitated to the passion and preparation of Eric Musselman. They loved talking hoops with Muss and that clinched it, after deciding that Rick Adelman -- despite eight trips to the playoffs in eight seasons -- was too aloof and played out to bring back.

To read more of Marc Stein's analysis, click here.

Musselman's hiring was officially announced at a Saturday afternoon news conference.

"I know we're going to be the best-prepared team in the league now," Kings co-owner Joe Maloof told The Associated Press in a phone interview Friday night. "We just like him a lot. We're really comfortable with the guy. Our whole family feels that way."

Musselman coached the Golden State Warriors from 2002-04 and emerged this week as a leading candidate to replace Rick Adelman in Sacramento. He was the only candidate of the three interviewed by the Kings to receive a second interview, conducted Thursday at the Maloof family's casino in Las Vegas.

According to NBA coaching sources, Stein reported, Musselman is expected to receive a three-year contract worth in excess of $6 million with a team option for a fourth season.

The Kings parted ways May 9 with Adelman, who won 395 games in eight consecutive winning seasons in Sacramento. Joe and Gavin Maloof decided not to renew Adelman's contract, primarily citing years of sub-par defense from one of the NBA's most exciting teams. Adelman also had spotty communication with the brothers, who could be seen yelling criticism at their coach from their courtside seats late in the season.

The Kings, who lost to San Antonio in the first round of the playoffs, had the NBA's only coaching vacancy.

The Kings also interviewed Golden State assistant Mario Elie and Sacramento Monarchs coach John Whisenant for the job.

Musselman spoke Thursday with the entire Maloof clan -- including Colleen Maloof, mother of the four sons who preside over the family's extensive business empire -- and president of basketball operations Geoff Petrie.

Musselman, 41, will be the 20th head coach in the history of a franchise that began life as the Rochester Royals in 1948. Adelman easily was the most successful coach in the club's 58 seasons, winning 395 games -- 100 more than Les Harrison, who coached the franchise to its only championship in 1951.

Adelman enjoyed eight consecutive winning seasons and subsequent playoff trips after taking over the Kings in 1998, earning two Pacific Division titles and going as far as Game 7 of the 2002 Western Conference finals.

The Kings' record had declined in four consecutive seasons during a wholesale roster overhaul that left guard Mike Bibby as the only remaining player from the 2001-02 club. Though Adelman led an impressive midseason revival when the Kings acquired Ron Artest in January, Sacramento still made another early playoff exit.

Musselman, a former University of San Diego point guard, has been a coaching prodigy since getting his first head coaching job in the Continental Basketball Association at just 23. After compiling the second-highest winning percentage in CBA history behind George Karl, Musselman was an NBA assistant in Minnesota, Orlando and Atlanta.

In 2002, he was hired to coach moribund Golden State, where he went 75-89 despite two largely unimpressive rosters. He was the runner-up for the NBA's coach of the year award in 2003, won by San Antonio's Gregg Popovich.

Though his teams were more competitive than any other Warriors clubs in the previous half-decade, he was fired when he clashed with players and incoming boss Chris Mullin. Many Warriors didn't appreciate a sometimes autocratic management style compared by many to his hard-nosed father, the late former Cleveland and Minnesota head coach Bill Musselman.

But when the Maloofs went looking for a charismatic, defense-oriented coach who will apply more discipline than Adelman, Eric Musselman fit the bill.

Musselman also is known for wowing potential employers in interviews. Former Golden State general manager Garry St. Jean reportedly hired Musselman for the club's top job after first interviewing Musselman only as a possible assistant.

He spent the last two seasons as the top assistant in Memphis coach Mike Fratello's defense-heavy system. He interviewed for the head coaching vacancies in Minnesota and Orlando last year.

Whisenant, a longtime friend of the Maloofs who never played or coached in the NBA, was thought to be the family's choice for the job last weekend -- but reports of his candidacy were widely blasted by fans and media in Sacramento, and Whisenant never got a second interview in Las Vegas.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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