BY ANTONIO GONZALEZ
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — If the Sacramento Kings stood any chance at success this season, Paul Westphal had to find a way to control talented but volatile center DeMarcus Cousins.
He couldn't — and lost his job because of it.
The Kings fired Westphal Thursday after two-plus seasons as coach, cutting ties amid a slow start and an escalating dispute with Cousins that threatened to consume the locker room. Assistant Keith Smart, let go by the Golden State Warriors in April after one season at the helm, signed a deal to become the team's new head coach.
With the Cousins-Westphal spat showing no resolution, Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof finally decided to take action. Instead of trading away a promising young big man, they made Westphal the first firing of the lockout-shortened season.
"We're in a situation here where you can't take a philosophical vacation because things are happening in real time," Kings president of basketball operations Geoff Petrie said. "You start to keep seeing the same things over and over again, you can't sit around and meditate forever about how you're going to approach them or try and change them."
Looking to build momentum for a new arena project, Sacramento stumbled at the start again this year.
A talented and athletic — albeit raw — roster entered Thursday night's home game against Milwaukee with a 2-5 record and in last place in the Pacific Division. Westphal finished with a 51-120 record in Sacramento.
The 61-year-old previously coached the Phoenix Suns and Seattle SuperSonics. In a statement released by the team, Westphal thanked the Maloofs, his coaching staff and players for the opportunity.