The Sacramento Kings have scheduled an interview Sunday to meet face-to-face with the freshly available Dave Joerger, according to league sources, as the Kings ramp up the intensity of their coaching search.
Sources say that the Kings, who had been hoping to secure permission from the Memphis Grizzlies to pursue Joerger before the Grizzlies abruptly fired him Saturday, are fans of the 42-year-old and regard him as a serious candidate for the post.
The Kings, sources say, had become increasingly intrigued by the idea of hiring Joerger away from the Grizzlies over the past week, but only now can the parties truly get to know each other in the wake of Saturday's events.
Joerger will join a group of experienced NBA head coaches already interviewed by the Kings that is approaching double digits, with Sacramento having planned from the start to commission a broad, deliberate search for a successor to George Karl.
In pure on-court terms, Joerger is coming off perhaps his best-ever coaching job, having guided Memphis to a 42-40 record and a spot in the Western Conference playoffs as a No. 7 seed despite a slew of injuries that led the Grizzlies to employ an NBA-record 28 players this season. No previous NBA team that ever employed 24 players or more in a single season had ever reached the playoffs.
But ESPN.com reported as far back as November that a growing disconnect between Joerger and his colleagues in the Grizzlies' front office could put his job in jeopardy.
Joerger rankled Memphis officials early in the season when he described the team's roster as "a little bit old" and gave a window into the simmering divide between coach and management as recently as the day after Memphis' first-round ouster by San Antonio, telling local reporters that he wouldn't see them again until July 1 -- after the NBA draft -- because he wouldn't be part of Memphis' draft preparations.
In explaining Joerger's firing Saturday on the team's website, Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace said: "The decision was made because I believe you need a deeply committed leadership team in order to establish the strong culture needed for sustainable long-term success. I don't want to get into specifics, but our goal now is to identify the best candidate for our organization."
ESPN.com subsequently reported Saturday that Wallace, in recent weeks, had sought and received permission to pursue the Kings' recent front-office vacancy under vice president of basketball operations Vlade Divac. Sacramento ultimately hired Ken Catanella from the Detroit Pistons for the assistant general manager position, then proceeded into its coaching search.
Joerger had only one guaranteed season left on his Memphis contract at an annual salary of $2 million, which is well below the current standard for established coaches. Sources say he will likely be seeking a three-year deal in the $12 million range if talks with the Kings progress to a serious stage.
Divac, to date, has interviewed NBA coaching veterans Sam Mitchell, Vinny Del Negro, Mike Woodson, David Blatt, Mark Jackson, Jeff Hornacek and Nate McMillan as well as veteran assistant coach Patrick Ewing and current Sacramento assistant Corliss Williamson. The Kings have also lined up interviews with current Grizzlies assistant coach Elston Turner and former NBA assistant coach Henry Bibby, and have received permission to interview San Antonio Spurs assistant coaches Ettore Messina and James Borrego for the job when the Spurs have a suitable break in their playoff schedule.
ESPN.com reported earlier this week that former Houston Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves coach Kevin McHale has withdrawn his name from consideration after engaging the Kings in "exploratory discussions."