SACRAMENTO -- Keith Smart spent much of his time during the lockout this summer scribbling notes at home, everything from designing plays to deciding what he'd do differently if he ever got another chance to be an NBA coach.
He never figured that time would come so soon.
More than eight months after the Warriors let his one-and-done contract expire, Smart, the former Indiana guard best known for hitting "The Shot" against Syracuse to win the 1987 NCAA title, is getting another shot -- as the Sacramento Kings' coach.
"When it happened the way it happened, you say, 'I hope I get another opportunity,' " Smart said.
"Well, I can coach now and develop a team," he said.
The Kings fired Paul Westphal seven games into the lockout-shortened season Thursday, marking the third time Smart has ascended from assistant to the top spot -- never seeing a second season each time previously, never really even having a chance to earn that time in either case. While nothing is promised again, Smart is confident he finally has strong support to be the lasting replacement.
The 47-year-old isn't one to sulk about whether he got a "fair shake" with the Warriors, who ousted the NBA's career wins leader, Don Nelson, before training camp last year and hastily appointed Smart. Golden State finished with a 36-46 record, a 10-game improvement under Smart from the previous season.
He never stood a chance.
New Warriors owners Joe
"This opportunity is not how a coach likes to come into it," said Smart, who spoke with Westphal before signing his contract. "He said, 'Don't do anything stupid and reject this. I want you to coach this team.' He felt it, and I felt that he meant it from the bottom of his heart."
Smart's style should mimic the run-and-fun ways Nelson made famous -- only with a bigger backcourt.
When players entered the Kings locker room Thursday, Smart followed a precedent he set from his Warriors days: He walked around to each player and asked for a handshake, signaling a pact that they would allow Smart to coach them and be involved in their lives.
Then he wrote on the white board: "Play Hard," the one request Smart makes before every game without debate.
"What I took from it was everybody was going to be held accountable the same way," said Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, whose escalating feud with Westphal played a major role in the coach's departure.
A young and emerging team in the deep Western Conference, Sacramento finished 24-58 last season and missed the playoffs for the fifth straight year, although a late-season surge behind a healthy Tyreke Evans -- the 2009-10 NBA Rookie of the Year -- provided hope that maybe the Kings weren't that far off from making the postseason again.
Instead, Sacramento stumbled at the start.
The Cousins-Westphal spat dragged on, the guard trio of Evans, Marcus Thornton and Jimmer Fredette has struggled to find a rhythm amid a constantly rotating roster and new additions John Salmons and Chuck Hayes are still searching for their place.