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Kings get Smart as new coach

(Reuters) - The Sacramento Kings named Keith Smart as the team's new head coach on Thursday after firing Paul Westphal following a 2-5 start to the season.

Smart coached the Golden State Warriors last season and joined the Kings as an assistant this season.

"Keith will bring a new perspective to the team as we try to move forward with the season," Geoff Petrie, president of basketball operations, said in a statement on the team's website.

"He's very well prepared and will assume the job with some new ideas and new approaches of his own. We're all excited and looking forward to working with him."

In his debut as Kings head coach on Thursday, Smart's team rallied from a 21-points half-time deficit to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 103-100.

Tension in the team had mounted as the losses increased and a dispute between Westphal and center DeMarcus Cousins festered.

"Unfortunately, the overall performance level of the team has not approached what we felt was reasonable to expect," Petrie said.

In two-plus seasons, Westphal compiled a 51-120 record with the Kings, going 25-57 in 2010 and 24-58 last season as they missed the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year.

The Kings were expected to improve this season and perhaps challenge for a playoff spot but instead sit in the cellar of the Pacific Division.

They opened the campaign with an upset of the Los Angeles Lakers, but have since suffered lopsided losses to Portland, Chicago, New York, Memphis and Denver.

Cousins did not play in a win over New Orleans after Westphal questioned the center's commitment to the Kings and told him to skip the game.

The coach also said Cousins, a former first-round pick, had demanded to be traded, something Cousins later denied.

Westphal, who previously coached the Phoenix Suns and Seattle SuperSonics, had not been an NBA head coach since 2001 when hired by the Kings in 2009.

"I would like to thank the Maloof family (Kings owners) for the incredible opportunity they gave me to participate in the attempt to bring the Sacramento Kings back to prominence," Westphal said.

"While the job is far from finished, I am proud of the strides we were able to make."

(Reporting By Gene Cherry in Salvo North Carolina; editing by Peter Rutherford)

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