Assistant coach Kenny Natt will take over the Kings, spokesman Troy Hanson said. Natt is Sacramento's fourth coach in less than three years.
The Kings have lost 10 of 11 to fall into last place in the Pacific Division, with only a win over the Los Angeles Lakers in the last 3½ weeks. Sacramento's 24-point home loss to the New York Knicks on Saturday night -- the ninth loss in 10 games at Arco Arena -- was Theus' final game.
Theus' firing was first reported by Yahoo.com. He is the sixth coach fired in the NBA already this season, following P.J. Carlesimo (Oklahoma City), Eddie Jordan (Washington), Sam Mitchell (Toronto), Randy Wittman (Minnesota) and Maurice Cheeks (Philadelphia), who was dismissed Saturday.
Theus played 13 seasons in the NBA, memorably scoring the first basket for the first Kings team in Sacramento after the club's move to Northern California in 1985. He went 38-44 in his debut season as head coach after the Kings hired him away from New Mexico State, where he built a solid program that marked him as an up-and-coming coaching prospect.
But with star guard Kevin Martin sidelined by injuries for all but nine games this season, Sacramento has been among the NBA's worst teams. Martin's injury and Sacramento's unimpressive roster weren't excuses for owners Joe and Gavin Maloof, who have publicly voiced their displeasure with their franchise's direction in recent weeks.
Natt is in his second season with the Kings after three years as an assistant with the Cleveland Cavaliers, who reached the NBA Finals in 2007. He played three NBA seasons, including a stint with the Kansas City Kings, before moving up the coaching ranks in a path that included nine seasons as an assistant to Utah coach Jerry Sloan.
In May 2006, the Maloofs fired veteran coach Rick Adelman, who won 395 games and led the Kings to eight consecutive playoff appearances and winning seasons, but no titles. After making that move over the objections of top basketball executive Geoff Petrie, the Maloofs then hired Eric Musselman, who lasted just one tumultuous season before getting fired amid multiple personality conflicts.
Theus, the former player who dabbled in acting and broadcasting before becoming a coach, seemed an ideal coach for the showbiz-loving Maloofs, and he did better than many expected in his rookie year. But a slow start convinced the impatient Maloofs to change direction again -- and it will cost them financially.
Theus' departure means the Kings will be paying three head coaching salaries this season to Natt, Theus and Musselman, who still has a year left on his contract.