What a circus: Who cleans up Kings’ mess as rift grows between coach and front office?

The circus had left town, but dung was smeared all over the floor late Thursday night after everyone exited Golden 1 Center wondering who would clean up the mess.

The rift between Kings coach Dave Joerger and the front office took a dramatic turn for the worse in the hours leading up to the team’s 133-121 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, which was nationally televised by TNT. The organization hoped the story would go away quietly when it surfaced nearly two weeks ago, but instead it was amplified and broadcast live across the country.

Now the Kings (10-11) are mired in their first three-game losing streak of the season as they prepare to host to the Indiana Pacers (13-9) Saturday night amid growing questions about whether Joerger can coexist with assistant general manager Brandon Williams.

“Whatever happens, Dave Joerger’s our coach and we’re going to stick with him,” Kings guard Buddy Hield said in a somber locker room following the loss to the Clippers. “We’re just trying to do our jobs. Dave’s doing his job. This is our first time being under .500 in a long time this season, but I think we’re in a great position. We’ve got some winnable games coming up. Dave’s doing a heck of a job, so I would appreciate it if everybody would just leave it alone. It’s annoying that people are trying to bring distractions to our team.”

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The turmoil within the organization came to light Nov. 17. Yahoo Sports, citing unnamed sources, suggested Joerger could lose his job over the distribution of minutes for some of the team’s young players. The player mentioned most prominently in the story was prized rookie Marvin Bagley III, who has received increased playing time since, but is listed as questionable for Saturday’s game due to back spasms.

Kings general manager Vlade Divac quickly issued a statement saying Joerger “has our full support and confidence,” a message intended to dispel the notion that Joerger was in danger of losing his job.

Joerger thinks Williams was a primary source for the Yahoo Sports story and has been looking for a new coach to replace him since last season, according to The Athletic. Williams, who has not spoken publicly about the situation, returned to the team Wednesday after nearly two weeks away for personal reasons.

Williams showed up at the team’s morning shoot-around Thursday. Joerger made known he wanted Williams to leave in a “one-time only” move intended to send a message of strength and unity to his players, sources told The Athletic. Williams reportedly left the shoot-around accompanied by Divac as a result of Joerger’s request.

Divac later issued a statement addressing the latest developments.

“I have advised my front office and coaching staff to not focus on drama and rumors, but instead to focus on continuing to develop our young and exciting team,” Divac said. “And that’s what we’re going to do.”

Joerger was asked about his relationship with Williams before Thursday’s game.

“When you sign up and you want to be in this business, this is a part of it – winning, losing, being out in front of the media three times a day, making decisions,” Joerger said. “I love the last two minutes of a game more than anybody around. I think that’s my drug and my thrill, and for that you get to deal with some stuff. And I’m OK.”

The Kings hired Joerger in 2016 following an acrimonious end to his tenure in Memphis, where he led the Grizzlies for three seasons before his relationship with the team’s front office deteriorated. ESPN reported that Memphis questioned Joerger’s commitment to the Grizzlies and grew frustrated with his veiled swipes at the front office in the media, and that Joerger felt he did not have management’s full support.

The situation is eerily similar in Sacramento, where Joerger has said he is “serving a lot of masters as far as development and trying to get a lot of guys minutes.”

The Kings still bear the scars of the dysfunction that led to former coach Michael Malone’s firing in 2014. The Kings got off to a surprising 5-1 start that year and were hovering around .500 when the team fired Malone, partly due to philosophical differences.

The Kings hired Williams in 2017 after former vice president of basketball operations Scott Perry left to become the general manager of the New York Knicks. Williams previously served as chief of staff for the Philadelphia 76ers after several years in the league office.

Williams played for Joerger when he led the Sioux Falls Skyforce to the Continental Basketball Association championship in 2004-05. When the Kings brought Williams into the organization, Joerger praised him as “honest, upfront, professional” and someone who “never burns any bridges.”

Late Thursday night, as players left the locker room, Joerger headed for the door and TNT camera crews packed up their equipment, it seemed those feelings had changed.

Jason Anderson:,

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