Jim Mallinder has hailed Alex King as a ‘fantastic lad’ - but is hoping the change to the Saints coaching setup will help bring success back to the club.
King’s departure from Northampton was announced on Friday, with the attack coach leaving by mutual agreement.
He had arrived at Saints from Clermont Auvergne in the summer of 2013 and helped Mallinder’s men to win an Aviva Premiership and Amlin Challenge Cup double during the season that followed.
But with Saints having won just two of their opening six Aviva Premiership matches this time round, Mallinder felt a change needed to be made.
And after the nail-biting 16-14 Champions Cup win against Montpellier at Franklin’s Gardens, the director of rugby said: “It’s not nice and you don’t really want to make changes, particularly through the season, but this is my 10th season and actually we haven’t made many changes to the coaching setup.
“This is probably only the second coaching change we’ve made (following the departure of Paul Grayson in November 2012) and from that we went on and won the Premiership and finished top of the league and won a European competition.
“Hopefully this little change will do the same and we can go on and improve - that’s why you’ve got to change something sometimes.
“You do need to improve and hopefully we’ll see that in the weeks to come.”
When asked who made the decision to end King’s spell at the club, Mallinder said: “It was a decision that was made after chatting to a few people and, of course, I do have a massive say in that.
“I spoke to Tony Hewitt, the chairman, and we came to the decision.”
But Mallinder insists it was nothing personal.
He added: “When you’re working seven days a week with people, you get very close and Alex King is a fantastic lad.
“I’ve shared a lot of times with him socially, had beers and meals with him, and you do get to know each other.
“As well as being a fantastic lad and personality, he’s also a very good coach, but sometimes you need to change something and freshen things up. That’s what we’re doing.”
So will Saints be seeking a replacement for King?
“In the short term we will do it (the role of attack coach) in-house,” Mallinder said.
“(Defence coach) Alan Dickens is an outstanding coach, he went with the England Saxons (to South Africa) over the summer, he’s picked up lots of ideas and he does love the attacking side of the game as well so he sees this as a big opportunity for him to step up.
“What we will be doing is looking around and looking to bring someone in.
“We do need another coach so whether that’s an attack or defence coach, it’s still to be decided.
“We’ve got Mark Hopley and Paul Diggin, who has come through here and is doing a fantastic job. They’re both loving that, helping to get the crowd going and all the little things Paul Diggin likes to do.
“We’re fine in the short term but we will be looking to bring someone in in the long term to help us out.”