NBA: Western Conference will be even more competitive for Joerger, Sacramento Kings
In a league with little patience for losing, and in a conference stacked with individual stars and super teams, Sacramento Kings head coach Dave Joerger is striving to build a winner. The former Staples-Motley Cardinal will begin his third season...
In a league with little patience for losing, and in a conference stacked with individual stars and super teams, Sacramento Kings head coach Dave Joerger is striving to build a winner.
The former Staples-Motley Cardinal will begin his third season as the Kings' head man in 2018-19 following a 27-55 record last season. That finish placed Sacramento 12th in the Western Conference and fourth in the Pacific Division.
Sacramento plays in the league's most competitive conference. The Golden State Warriors have won three of the last four NBA championships and recently added DeMarcus Cousins to their star-studded lineup. The Houston Rockets have James Harden and Chris Paul. The Los Angeles Lakers made the biggest offseason splash by adding LeBron James.
The Kings' most recognizable names are Zach Randolph, Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein and Vince Carter. And they added Nemanja Bjelica, formerly of the Minnesota Timberwolves, this offseason.
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- Position: Head coach, Sacramento Kings
- League: NBA
- Age: 44 (Feb. 21, 1974)
- High school: Staples-Motley (1992 graduate) College: Concordia (Moorhead) (1993-1994), Minnesota State Moorhead (1996-1997) Minor league coaching: 1997-2000 Dakota Wizards (assistant), 2000-04 Dakota Wizards, 2004 Cedar Rapids River Raiders, 2004-2006 Sioux Falls Skyforce, 2006-07 Dakota Wizards
- NBA coaching: 2007-13 Memphis Grizzlies (assistant), 2013-2016 Memphis (head coach), 2016-present Sacramento Kings head coach
- NBA career record: 206-204 (.502)
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Joerger said the Kings have young talent that needs to play.
"We played first- and second-year guys over 10,500 minutes last year, becoming the sixth team in the last 15 years in the NBA to do so," Joerger said by phone Tuesday, July 24. "I think we had the second-highest winning percentage of the six teams that did that. You hope at some point that pays off, that guys get into the third and fourth years of their careers and try to carve out a niche and create space for themselves in the NBA.
"We're a couple years away. I like our young guys. I know there's going to be some real growing pains but last year we did win 27 games. We were also 5-0 in 1-point games. That's not generally the odds of you winning those 1-point games but whatever your record is it should reflect that.
"The West has gotten better. We're fighting for spots between us and Phoenix and Dallas and the Lakers. The Lakers added LeBron, Dallas added DeAndre Jordan. It's the ebbs and flows of competition in the West that everyone's trying to load up. A lot of teams got better. We're going to play a lot of young guys this year. You've got to stay positive, keep trying to teach every single day."
Joerger was hired as the Kings' coach after spending nine years (2007-16) with the Memphis Grizzlies, the last three as their head coach. After being named the Grizzlies' head coach June 27, 2013, Joerger accrued a 147-99 regular-season mark (.598) and guided the franchise to postseason berths in each of his seasons at the helm. He directed the Grizzlies to two 50-win seasons.
Prior to reaching the NBA, Joerger was one of the most accomplished minor league coaches in history, piloting five teams to championships in three different leagues in seven seasons (2000-07). He sent 18 players to the NBA during his time in the minors. By the time he was hired by the Grizzlies as an assistant coach in 2007, Joerger had collected titles in the NBA Development League, Continental Basketball Association and International Basketball League. Joerger said his years in the NBADL, CBA and IBL prepared him to make the leap to the NBA.
"That experience helped me in dealing with players, talking to players, trying to be up front with what their expectations are, what you can provide for them, what their role might be," he said. "I think always being upfront with players is the best way to do it and I think it's most appreciated by them as well."
On his way to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Tuesday, Joerger talked about a variety of NBA topics.
In January, he experienced light-headedness during the first quarter of a game against the San Antonio Spurs and had to take a knee on the sideline. He returned to Sacramento and underwent a series of precautionary medical evaluations and tests, with results suggesting his health was fine.
"We're starting to learn more about the effects of the travel, the stress," Joerger said. "Our coaches association and other coaches associations, we're educating ourselves better. That's a positive. You know what you're supposed to do.
"Certainly hydration, exercise and sleep are huge. Sometimes you say that's not that important but, well, it is. We're getting in at all hours, getting up at all hours, watching tape at all hours. We're out there in front of X number of people. Whatever stress you put on yourself is your own to deal with."
Media demands on a coach in the four major pro leagues are immense and add to a coach's stress. Joerger said he hopes he's gotten better at accommodating all the demands. He said initially he had a tendency to try to explain things more than necessary.
"At the end of the day, the media needs something from you," he said. "They're just looking for information. You don't have to give them a long explanation. Give them a sound bite or what they're looking for. We've become, as coaches, kind of a lightning rod because on game day you're going to speak to the media generally three times-pregame, postgame and at shootaround. Then maybe you have a local TV station set up or a local radio interview that you have set up before the game. The amount of (media) can get to be a lot but you learn to adjust to it.
"What I try to do is be very positive. As a young team, we're a couple years away. There's no sense being negative at all. You never throw a player under the bus. You never point a finger at a player. I think that helps keep your locker room intact, that players know you always have their back. Even if they know they've screwed up, you take the hit."
Joerger started the Dave Joerger Foundation when he was in Memphis and has brought it to California. The foundation's mission is to give underprivileged children opportunities to experience what they may not otherwise and give them a vision of the possibilities of success in their future. His foundation has sponsored events like giveaways of backpacks, school supplies and game tickets and benefits for Youth Athletic Ministries and National Junior Tennis and Learning.
"We did an (agriculture) day, which is my roots back in rural Minnesota, bringing kids out from tough places to see where our food comes from," Joerger said. "It was not just an animal-petting fest. Especially in that area (of California), it's a big farm to fork area. We have great, fresh food all the time. It's fantastic. Kids get to learn where a lot of food comes from and certainly animals are part of that, too."