Ailene Voisin, sports columnist

Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin: Petrie's tenure ends with questions

Published: Wednesday, May. 29, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014 - 6:06 pm

Geoff Petrie's departure comes as no surprise, comes after almost two decades, and comes with a mixed bag of results that can be separated into three eras – the Jim Thomas reign, the good times, and the days of anger, angst and a constant threat of relocation.

It comes with a ton of questions, too, because it would take an arena full of therapists to determine whether Petrie's ineffectiveness was due to the crumbling of the Maloofs' financial empire – you can't scout without cash for the airfare – or his inability to adapt to the Kings' circumstances and a faster-paced, increasingly innovative NBA.

During the final games of the season, Petrie, who wielded tremendous influence during his 19 seasons, stood in the tunnel and glumly stared at the court, undoubtedly sensing the inevitable and reflecting on a tenure that began with a rush, could have and should have included an NBA championship in 2002, and ended with a massive thud and a near-simultaneous departure with the Maloofs.

Petrie was hired by Thomas in June 1994 and directed to end the Kings' eight-year playoff drought as quickly as possible. He made a series of short-term moves that provided short-term relief. In only his second season, a team coached by Garry St. Jean and featuring Mitch Richmond, Brian Grant, Sarunas Marciulionis and Billy Owens made the 1995-96 postseason and extended the SuperSonics to four games.

Convinced his team needed an upgrade to become more than an occasional postseason participant, Petrie began a salary cap purge that extended for two seasons and included replacing St. Jean with assistant Eddie Jordan.

In preparation for the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, he stole Chris Webber from the Wizards for aging, disgruntled Mitch Richmond; drafted Jason Williams; lured 1996 first-round pick Peja Stojakovic from the Greek League; and recruited free agent Vlade Divac, the veteran center with an entertaining personality and exceptional skills.

While Petrie opposed Thomas' decision to replace Jordan, he provided a subtle nudge toward his old friend, Rick Adelman, during the second round of interviews.

A few months later, the Kings began an eight-year playoff run that included other shrewd, even brilliant moves: trading for Doug Christie and Mike Bibby, drafting Hedo Turkoglu and Gerald Wallace, and acquiring free agents Bobby Jackson and Brad Miller.

But the beginning of the end for Petrie – and for the Maloofs – was the career-threatening knee injury Webber suffered in 2003. The microfracture surgery stripped the Kings' best player of his explosiveness while leaving the franchise with his hefty multiyear contract. Eager to free cap room, Petrie dumped Webber but stuck the Kings with the lengthy deals of Kenny Thomas, Brian Skinner and Corliss Williamson from the 76ers.

The trade that sent Stojakovic to the Pacers for Ron Artest brought brief relief; Artest willed the Kings into the playoffs (2006) for what proved to be a final time.

Petrie's last seasons were marred by coaching hirings and firings, ill-advised free-agent signings (Chuck Hayes, Aaron Brooks, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Mikki Moore), and one shaky draft after another, none more egregious than last summer's selection of Kansas forward Thomas Robinson with the No. 5 pick.

Again, the question that can never be answered is this: Is Petrie the root cause of his own prolonged and fateful slump or did the Maloofs' shrinking bank account preclude him from adequately scouting and discourage him from adding an aggressive attorney/negotiator to his staff – in effect depriving him of the equipment to play the game?

Whatever, he had a great run. And then he didn't. And now it's over.

For the first time in two decades, the Kings start over without him.

Call The Bee's Ailene Voisin (916) 321-1208 and follow her on Twitter @ailene_voisin.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Ailene Voisin



Ailene Voisin, sports columnist

Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. She earned a bachelor's degree in political science from UNLV and a law degree from the University of San Diego before committing full time to journalism.

Her career includes stops at the San Diego Union, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and time spent as the backup beat writer for Dodgers and Angels, Clippers and NBA beat writer, sports columnist, along with numerous assignments covering international events and the Olympics. Ailene joined The Sacramento Bee in 1997.

Email: avoisin@sacbee.com
Phone: 916-321-1208
Twitter: @ailene_voisin

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