“He’s too old.” “Injury-riddled.” “Can’t move laterally.” “He couldn’t fight a cold, let alone through a pick.”
The philosophy of the Sydney Kings since returning to the NBL continues to be to not let the coach have much say in recruitment or building his team and then blaming him when they misfire.
The Kings returned to the NBL for the 2010-11 season and in that time they have had five general managers and four coaches under the leadership of chairman Phil Hudson.
The result has been one playoff appearance, a semi-final exit against the New Zealand Breakers under Shane Heal in 2013, and an overall record of 55-97 following last Wednesday night’s loss to the Illawarra Hawks.
That proved to be the last game in charge for coach Damian Cotter.
Ironically Cotter replaced Heal ahead of the 2014-15 when the former Australian, NBL and NBA star resigned because of his frustration over being overruled on recruitment decisions.
And now it is Cotter blamed for the poor performances for the bottom-placed Kings despite being given much of his playing squad by management and told to make the best of it.
Josh Childress can be a dominant force in the NBL but he has only played two games this season through injury. Al Harrington was a more than handy replacement but it didn’t solve the problems.
Kings management struck a deal with the Boston Celtics to provide a development year for draftee Marcus Thornton. That didn’t take into consideration how he fit into Sydney’s roster.
Thornton has had some good moments and appears on track to be a good scoring guard, but it left Cotter with no room to select an import of his choosing that could best suit a roster built around Childress.
It could be argued that Jason Cadee, Rhys Carter and Steve Markovic could have handled the point guard duties for the Kings this season if Cotter had his way to select a different type of import.
AJ Ogilvy is currently an MVP candidate with the Illawarra Hawks after leaving the Kings two seasons ago. Ben Madgen was the heart and soul of the team as captain up until this season.
Sydney management should have treated both better but let them walk. Both would be outstanding right now in a team including Childress, Thornton, Julian Khazzouh, Tom Garlepp, Carter and Cadee.
Things easily could have been different, though, if Childress had been healthy all season.
But Cotter hasn’t been given that benefit. Heal decided to walk before he suffered a similar fate when he wasn’t allowed to have final say on building the team he wanted.
The Sydney sporting landscape is a difficult one to make an impact in as the Kings are finding. They haven’t been a championship contender in six seasons.
To make matters worse, they have already played all but one of their home games at the Sydney Entertainment Centre for the season before it’s demolished.
Their final five home games are out of sight at Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre and they could struggle to make even a ripple once they head out there.
If Cotter didn’t see the writing on the wall with the way things went with Heal in charge, then the signs should have become clearer when his import decisions were taken out of his hands.
Then Harrington was signed to replace Childress during his broken hand and former Washington Wizards NBA assistant Joe Connelly hardly subtly joined the Kings to work under Cotter – briefly.
Now Cotter has been fired and Connelly will stand in for the rest of the season.
Compare it to the professional way Melbourne United have been run the past six months and it’s easy to see why one is leading the NBL and the other is on the bottom.
Then there is the curious case of the Townsville Crocodiles axing captain and reigning NBL MVP Brian Conklin.
That was a management decision, again coach Shawn Dennis didn’t make the call, leaving the Crocs to tackle last season’s grand finalists Cairns and New Zealand shorthanded.
Round 9 NBL Fixtures (AEDT)
New Zealand Breakers v Perth Wildcats (North Shore Events Centre) – Fox Sports 3, 5.30pm
Townsville Crocodiles v Cairns Taipans (Townsville Entertainment Centre) – Fox Sports 3, 7.30pm
Illawarra Hawks v Melbourne United (WIN Entertainment Centre) – Fox Sports 3, 7.30pm
Cairns Taipans v Sydney Kings (Cairns Convention Centre) – Fox Sports 3, 7.30pm
Perth Wildcats v Adelaide 36ers (Perth Arena) – Fox Sports 3, 9.30pm
Townsville Crocodiles v New Zealand Breakers (Townsville Entertainment Centre) – Fox Sports 3, 7.30pm
Melbourne United v Adelaide 36ers (Hisense Arena) – Fox Sports 3 and GEM, 3pm