Paul Westphal isnt the first NBA coach to lose a battle with a player, but he may be the first to get fired over someone who may not be worth the trouble.
Thats the uncertainty concerning the Sacramento Kings decision to can Westphal on Thursday. Word is, former Golden State coach Keith Smart will receive a two-year contract and replace Westphal immediately.
The young Kings won just two of their first seven games and sported a 51-120 record in Westphals two-plus seasons. But this likely has more to do with his clashes with second-year big man DeMarcus Cousins.
Again, this isnt a first. When it comes to coaches vs. players in the NBA, coaches almost never win.
Magic Johnson pretty much doomed Paul Westhead with the L.A. Lakers back in 1982, and not long after the Lakers won a title. More recently, Jerry Sloan ended a decades-long run in Utah after quarreling with point guard Deron Williams.
But Johnson was a Hall-of-Famer who went on to win four championships after Westhead. Williams is now an All-Star with New Jersey.
Cousins, on the other hand, is very young and owns a questionable history when it comes to listening to coaches and getting along with teammates. He has been mostly inconsistent and entirely too difficult in his brief career. Nobody is going to turn around a franchise based on Cousins alone. Basically, were not talking about LeBron James here.
The Westphal-Cousins feud dates back to last season, but took on new life earlier this week. Thats when Westphal said Cousins demanded a trade, then sent Cousins home before a game against New Orleans.
Westphal even released a statement on the matter, saying Cousins continually, aggressively made it known he was unwilling or unable to embrace traveling in the same direction as his team.
Cousins put out a denial -- and an organization expected to celebrate athleticism, firepower and the hype surrounding lottery pick Jimmer Fredette suddenly took another public relations hit.
Firing Westphal isnt likely to fix that, either. Not even Smart can save the Kings now.
Instead, all this move potentially does is help Cousins feel vindicated. And who could blame him? Wouldnt you feel that way if you acted disruptive and your boss quickly got the ax?
Thats not to say Westphal was the perfect match for this team. He led Charles Barkley and Phoenix to the Finals in the early 1990s, but Barkley and Kevin Johnson were largely to thank. That was a Suns team loaded with veterans, men who understood their roles and shared the ball.
Todays Kings are a different story. Theyre not bad guys, and that includes Cousins. They just have a lot to learn and require an extremely patient and willing teacher.
Is Smart that guy? Hard to tell, as the Kings havent exactly made splashes with their coaching hires in recent years. Since the glory days of Rick Adelman earlier this century, theyve delivered Eric Musselman, Reggie Theus, Kenny Natt and Westphal.
Musselman may have been the best of the bunch -- but his refusal to run the Princeton offense insisted on by GM Geoff Petrie resulted in just one short season.
Now, its up to Smart to try to make this work, reaching the likes of not just Cousins, but Tyreke Evans and J.J. Hickson as well.
Those three represent the new band of Kings -- good guys, but guys who dont quite get it. Westphal cant be entirely at fault for that. He was, after all, coaching grown men.
So now its up to Smart to reach all these young guns, teaching the value of sharing the ball on offense and occasionally bending their knees and shuffling their feet on defense. And when it comes to Cousins and Evans, the teams most talented players, Smart might want to mention the concept of giving an honest days effort, too.
If it doesnt work, the Kings will only have themselves to blame. Because the bottom line is, they cant keep firing coaches. Especially when theyre still not sure what they have in the young big man whos the biggest reason Westphal was let go.
Follow Sam Amico on Twitter @SamAmicoFSO