July 20, 2024

Inside the downfall of Sydney Kings’ head coach Mahmoud Abdelfattah

There was a part of Mahmoud Abdelfattah’s firing that seemed an inevitability from the midway point of the 2023-24 NBL season.

It was November, and the Sydney Kings had just picked up two straight wins – over the New Zealand Breakers, then the Brisbane Bullets – both of which were unconvincing, filled with some worrying indicators. These Kings developed a knack for giving up significant leads, with a defence that didn’t hold; a volatility that would then haunt them for the remainder of the season, and ultimately lead to Abdelfattah’s downfall.

After that win over the Bullets, in Round 7, the Kings never won back-to-back games again. A loss to Melbourne United the following game would lead into a FIBA break, where cracks began to emerge.

It was that November FIBA window when the team had its first players-only meeting, sources told ESPN. The theme of the meeting, sources said: let’s do this for each other.

That marked the first material disconnect between Abdelfattah and the Kings’ playing group, who would have another players-only meeting later in the season, sources said.

Around that same time, some resentment began to form over Abdelfattah’s switch-everything defensive schemes, sources said. The Kings would make some tweaks to their coverages midway through the season, but ended up finishing the campaign with the second-worst defence – allowing 113.4 points per 100 possessions, per RealGM – which was a significant shift from back-to-back seasons as one of the league’s best defensive teams under Chase Buford.

This wasn’t a case of bad blood, multiple sources indicated, but, instead, a lack of cohesion between the head coach and his players. The playing group’s chemistry with one another never faltered in any notable way; instead, a decrease in confidence in the team’s direction began to grow, sources said.

Jaylen Adams’ relaxed demeanour never seemed to click with Abdelfattah’s spirited, Chicago-bred coaching style, which showed on the court with what often appeared as apathy from the Kings’ star point guard. The Kings didn’t have a talent or competitor like Xavier Cooks to rally behind when things became stagnant – both on the court, and emotionally – and didn’t respond to Abdelfattah’s style of coaching, so wins ultimately became tough to come by.

Going into the turn of the new year, changes were considered.

 

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