Mejia: Westphal lasts 12 days in lockout-shortened season

Sacramento's Paul Westphal became the first coach dismissed in the 2011-12 NBA season. (Getty Images)

Del Harris made it to see 20 days, leading the Lakers to a 6-6 record back in the last lockout-shortened campaing in 1999.

Paul Westphal got to 12, put out of his misery after milking two wins in seven games  from a disgruntled motley crew in Sacramento. They’ll always have the riveting home-opening triumph over L.A. as a final nice memory.

Beyond that, a season that you knew would come at you at warp speed was covered in a fog of scowls and discontent, lopsided losses where the team’s starting guards hung their heads and the would be-franchise center uttered a trade demand days into his second season.

So yeah, this wasn’t hard to predict.

The task of putting together a jigsaw puzzle with a few too many pieces that don’t fit temporarily falls on Keith Smart, who struggled in a similar scenario after taking over for Don Nelson in Golden State. If he’s around the next few weeks and wins more than a hand’s worth of games he’ll have the job permanently. Don’t bank on it.

Sacramento will begin the Smart era against the depleted Milwaukee Bucks before playing 10 of the following 13 games away from home. Thus far, they’ve dropped games in Portland, Memphis and Denver by a combined 66 points.

“Unfortunately, the overall performance level of the team has not approached what we felt was reasonable to expect,” GM Geoff Petrie said in a team-released statement. “I wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

Petrie may be swimming in that same sea if his mismatched roster doesn’t find a way to co-exist. It’s hard to imagine that’s going to happen with an interim coach unable to yield formidable power navigating the ship. Sacramento needs a strong personality who can foster growth, but with games piling up in an accelerated schedule, that may be impossible as is.

Westphal paid the price, but he’ll be much saner for it come late April. It’s just a shame Sacramento, so excited to have their Kings return, will have no choice but to watch the “growth” like grass during a cold winter.