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After the season ends, Warriors management will likely replace Keith Smart as head coach. (Pauline Lubens/Mercury News)

Keith Smart tried; there should be no dispute about it.

In a few weeks, when he is no longer Warriors coach, everyone will nod and agree that Smart tried mightily at this job.

Tried honorably, but did not succeed. Probably could not succeed.

He tried to get more out of Stephen Curry, but this season the relationship started chilly, and it has never warmed, which is not a healthy thing for a young point guard and an inexperienced coach.

Smart tried to support Andris Biedrins, but that was a failure from the outset.

Smart tried to accommodate Monta Ellis, but Smart's willingness to accept Ellis' careless moments only heightened the suspicion that Curry, of all players, was being singled out for tougher treatment.

Smart tried to channel the generally happy spirit of the locker room into victories on the court, but the Warriors are sagging to the finish line this season yet again.

All credit and respect to Smart, because it's mid-March, the shadow has fallen on the franchise again, and he is still trying.

But that will not change what has been inevitable for months -- possibly from the first chaotic day Smart was promoted to replace Don Nelson in September.

After the season ends, Joe Lacob, Robert Rowell and Larry Riley almost certainly will look for a new coach who better fits their sensibilities.

Nobody quite understands what those sensibilities are, which underlines why Smart didn't have much of a chance in this job.

We know what Smart tried to do:

  • He wanted to create a happy locker-room atmosphere (successful).

  • He wanted the players to like and trust him (semi-successful).

  • He wanted to set up a culture of accountability (not successful and not his fault).

  • He wanted the Warriors to play tougher (not at all successful and not all his fault).

  • And he wanted to win a lot of games (not at all successful).

    My sense is that Lacob and co-owner Peter Guber will retain Rowell and Riley and credit them for whatever positives they want to assign to this season.

    But somebody has to get the blame for the random negatives Lacob is willing to concede, and that person will be Smart.

    If there was anything behind Smart -- a strong, imaginative philosophy, a general manager, an owner, a long history of success, an electric personality -- he would have a shot.

    But Smart is a nice, hardworking man in a job that demands more, coaching players who demand much more, working for a franchise that is adrift and under a front office that does not have his back.

    Meanwhile, Smart has been all over the place in his motivations, trying to be both the players' friend and their leader and achieving neither. That, by the way, is very typical of an assistant bumped up into an extended interim situation.

    He is a place-holder, and the players know it. He is a fill-in, with an owner looking to make a splash.

    He is the assistant prompted by necessary convenience when Lacob properly concluded that Nelson must not coach the team this season.

    Smart would have had to be an exceptional coach, working at a blindingly fast pace, to force Lacob and Rowell to keep him past this season.

    He isn't an exceptional coach. And he has been mostly on his own, as management waits to judge him on his weaknesses.

    Clearly, there are some interesting potential candidates for this job who have strengths that Smart does not "...

    Current Lakers assistant (and East Bay native) Brian Shaw could seize the attention of a locker room and reshape the way the Warriors play, if Shaw is interested.

    Boston assistant and former New Jersey coach Lawrence Frank is another respected strategist; San Antonio assistant Mike Budenholzer and Dallas assistant Dwane Casey are due for promotions.

    Former Cleveland coach Mike Brown and former Knicks and Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy are more expensive options with proven philosophies.

    That is a cast with a variety of backgrounds, and one similarity: They would all have a better shot at changing the Warriors' culture than Smart.

    He isn't the problem. In fact, I believe Smart probably is better than his bosses at identifying the real problems.

    But the Warriors, at this point, are not the team for a beginner who doesn't have the full backing of his owner or the full-field talents of a coaching visionary.

    Read Tim Kawakami's Talking Points blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/kawakami. Contact him at tkawakami@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5442.