The Kings sacked Reggie Theus this morning, landing somewhere between surprise and "duh" on the Richter scale. For most people who know, Sacramento's performance and the general ferver surrounding the coaching guillotine sent Theus toward the gallows of expected dismissal. But closer to the scene, Geoff Petrie's history left many of us sure Theus would survive until April.
Petrie has only fired a head coach once in his near 20 seasons as a basketball executive. In four years in Portland, Petrie stayed with Rick Adelman; Petrie left when Adelman did. Upon arriving in Sacramento in 1995, Petrie kept atrocious incumbent coach Garry St. Jean for nearly two full years. However, in March of 1996 with 15 games remaining, Petrie canned St. Jean. Since then, the Kings have gone through four coaches; only Theus saw his end come during a campaign.
Particularly -- and though rookie coaches rarely get killed before a full season at the helm -- Eric Musselman would have been fired by most GMs in 2006-07. Musselman had a team which made the playoffs and took the Spurs to six games ... and ran out a pretty awful squad that hardly resembled Adelman's creation. Also, he got busted during preseason for DUI and so lost the respect of the team with his attitude and actions that he and top assistant Scott Brooks (now the head coach of OKC) didn't speak for the last few months of the season (reportedly). Petrie showed patience with Musselman that would not have been forthcoming from any other executive.
That would lead most to believe Theus has things going particularly bad to get this treatment. Of course, there's another way to look at it, one mentioned over the weekend. When Petrie replaced St. Jean in 1996, the interim was Eddie Jordan. At the time Jordan had been a Kings assistant alongside Petrie's mentor and close friend, Pete Carril -- the creator of the Princeton offense. Jordan implemented the Princeton during his full season as the Kings coach. Unfortunately, the Kings had one of the worst rosters you'll ever see. After the season, Petrie traded for Chris Webber, signed Vlade Divac, brought previously drafted Peja Stojakovic over from Greece and drafted Jason Williams. Things looked up for Jordan and his ol' Princeton offense. But then Kings owner Jim Thomas fired Jordan before the season began, wanting an experienced coach to lead such a pricey investment. Petrie was not on board with the decision. To show it, Petrie physically turned away from Thomas during the owner's press conference schpiel. That may seem like a "whatever" detail, but Petrie is among the most sober, calm men in basketball. If he's going to show up his boss, he is ultra pissed.
Adelman was then hired, and the rest is history. Carril left with Adelman in 2006, and the Maloofs (Thomas' ownership successors) have had their hand forcefully in each coaching hire since. When Theus got the job 18 months ago, Reggie's old college coach Jerry Tarkanian -- a friend of the Maloofs -- told a reporter that he (Tark) implored the Maloofs to make the decision themselves, since they were signing the paycheck. Clearly, Petrie did not pick Theus.
By all accounts, the Maloofs are leaving basketball decision up to Petrie now. Philadelphia has been rumored to be chasing Jordan, despite his unceremonious firing by Washington after an awful start by the Wizards. Petrie lost out on his top candidate in 2007 (Stan Van Gundy, who actually signed Orlando's contract in a Sacramento Kinko's and faxed it to Florida when Billy Donovan backed out during SVG's second Kings interview).
With all the connections, all the history between Petrie, Carril (who just visited Sacramento this weekend and attended Theus' last game as a guest of the franchise) and Jordan -- the writing's plain to see.
What History Tells Us About Reggie Theus and Eddie Jordan originally appeared on NBA FanHouse on Mon, 15 Dec 2008 18:15:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.