Kings co-owner Joe Maloof told SI.com that Paul Westphal's statement alleging that second-year center DeMarcus Cousins demanded a trade was not approved before being released.
The statement clearly played a significant part in Westphal's ousting Thursday, and Maloof's revelation contradicts what was said by Westphal in the wake of his decision to send Cousins home for Sunday's game against the Hornets. Westphal previously indicated that team president Geoff Petrie had spoken with the Maloofs about the letter, but Joe said that was not the case. Petrie and Westphal did not return calls for comment, but a source with knowledge of the statement said Petrie certainly played a part in its publication.
The statement not only detailed the alleged trade demand, but was also highly critical of the mercurial player who was sent home.
"I didn't know about any letter," Maloof said by phone Thursday. "We didn't know about any of that. ... We didn't know about the statement or anything like that.
"They made a basketball decision, to sit him for a night and that's the only thing that we do know."
When asked if he was upset by the letter, Maloof said: "Well, we've owned the team 13 years and it's our belief that you keep basketball situations in house and not make them public. That did upset me. ... It's always been our history to keep things in the organization and not to make it public. As far as I was concerned, [Cousins] would sit the bench one night and that's all there was to it."
Maloof confirmed a Yahoo! Sports report that assistant Keith Smart was close to signing a new deal to succeed Westphal, giving the former Golden State coach the reins to a team on a dysfunctional downward spiral since 2006, when they decided not to re-sign coach Rick Adelman. Smart will follow in the futile footsteps of Eric Musselman, Reggie Theus, Kenny Natt and Westphal in the five playoff-less seasons since then.
The Kings' lackluster start this season was a major factor in Westphal's firing, as they followed an opening win against the Lakers by losing five of their next six games by an average of 19.6 points.
Westphal took a monumental risk in handling Cousins the way he did, making it clear he didn't want the player to return to the team until he had proven to the coaching staff and his teammates that he was "buying in."
It appeared Westphal had Petrie's support, but sources say the long-time Kings executive quickly began distancing himself from the situation in the days leading up to the coach's ouster.
Cousins and his agent, John Greig, met with Petrie on Monday in Sacramento, and the decision was made to put him on the team plane for Denver, despite the fact that he was hardly apologetic for his alleged actions. Cousins had released a statement of his own through Greig, denying he had requested or demanded a trade and saying, "I don't agree with the actions taken, but will give my sincere effort to put it behind me and compete the best I can for my team."
Though Westphal was privately frustrated that his wishes regarding Cousins had not been granted, the steps toward his removal were slowly being taken back in Sacramento.
"It was Geoff and the basketball operation's decision [to fire Westphal in the final year of his contract]," Maloof said. "He thought it was time for change and that's what they decided to do. We appreciate everything Paul's done. He's been very, very professional, and is a terrific, classy guy. It's tough to do, but the time had come."
"You have to ask Geoff," Maloof said. "I'm not sure about what specifically. The team wasn't playing as to where we expected it to be playing.
"Geoff thought there needed to be a change and we OK'd it. [The decision was] made yesterday afternoon. We're just going to continue to try to make our team better. We have to wait and try to find the right fit. It's not easy."