To this point, the career of DeMarcus Cousins has been a rocky road. He has developed something new in his game each season and is now clearly one of the best big men in the NBA. However, there still appears to be a great deal of space between the current iteration of Cousins and his hypothetical ceiling. Six seasons into his NBA journey there are still a lot of rough edges to be sanded down.
Some of that roughness can be forgiven, considering Cousins will begin his seventh season with the Sacramento Kings, playing for his sixth different head coach. In fact, it is often assumed that this particular aspect of organizational instability is one of the primary things that has hampered the development of Cousins to this point.
Keith Smart was Cousins’ coach for 141 games, the longest time he has spent under any of his head coaches. If we compare Cousins to some of the other top players from the 2010 NBA Draft we can see that his experience is fairly distinct but not entirely unique.
This graph shows the top six players from the 2010 NBA Draft by career VORP. All have played for at least two coaches across their six seasons. Three of this group — Paul George, John Wall, and DeMarcus Cousins will also be playing for a new head coach this season.
While the endless transitions around Cousins are pretty obvious here, it’s striking that Greg Monroe has had a similar experience — one that is not often discussed. Monroe was on the roster for 148 games of Lawrence Frank but, other than that, has never had the same coach for more than one season. Monroe’s flaws are usually assumed to be inherent shortcomings rather than a product of instability but it will be interesting to see how he develops during his second season under Jason Kidd (assuming he lasts through the season in Milwaukee).
So, Cousins’ experience is not totally unique among modern players but it is also, to some degree, a reflection of the modern NBA. Since the beginning of the three-point era (the 1979-80 season), the average head coaching tenure (including interim coaches) has lasted about 200 games, or just under two-and-a-half seasons. Cousins would fall short of that mark — his experiences would average out to about 95 games per head coach. But it doesn’t sound quite as bad in the context of the entire league.
If we look at the average head coaching tenures by team for the three-point era, we see the Kings fall towards the bottom of the spectrum but are certainly not the most chaotic.
These numbers are a little messy as a measure of organizational chaos. How long a head coach lasts is dependent on plenty of factors besides the relative stability of an entire organization — health, age, player quality, team success, style, etc. In addition, we’re looking at a span of more than three decades in which owners, general managers, and stars came and went. Still, there is a fairly significant difference between teams at the top and the bottom.
Cousins has landed in a particularly rocky patch for the Kings in terms of organizational stability but over the past three decades, they haven’t had much stability in head coaching positions anyway. This has been a trend that has persisted across multiple ownership groups and through numerous general managers.
For the sake of Cousins and the Kings, here’s hoping that Dave Joerger is the right man for the job. Or, at the very least, he gets to stick around for a few seasons to make his case.