Ailene Voisin, sports columnist

Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin: Basketball is in Malone's blood

Published: Sunday, Jun. 2, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Monday, Sep. 23, 2013 - 8:32 am

As Michael Malone prepares for his first head-coaching job, for the angst and aggravation that come with the five-star hotels, lucrative salaries and assorted NBA perks, he can't say he wasn't warned.

The Kings' new head coach is a child of the system and the son of NBA lifer Brendan Malone, the respected assistant who helped devise the Jordan Rules, co-existed with knucklehead Dennis Rodman, won two NBA championships and has been a combination of friend, conscience and co-counsel to several of the game's coaching luminaries.

The late Chuck Daly was a frequent visitor. Isiah Thomas is a friend. Jeff and Stan Van Gundy stay in touch.

And not to suggest that the Kings are on the same level as an expansion team, but Brendan Malone was the first coach of the expansion Toronto Raptors. Among the side benefits he brings in his new role as a Kings assistant coach is an acute familiarity with flawed rosters and a unique and enduring bond with his son.

"We bounced around all the time when Michael was growing up because of my jobs," Brendan Malone said Friday from New York. "I coached high school (famed Power Memorial in New York), Fordham, Yale, Syracuse, Rhode Island. Then I went to the Knicks with Hubie Brown. Michael, being the youngest, tagged along all the way. He has had quite the journey to becoming a head coach."

While Brendan Malone initially wasn't thrilled about his son's decision to enter the coaching fraternity, mainly because the lifestyle tends to be brutal on the family, it was safer than the alternative: joining the Secret Service.

After graduating from Loyola in Maryland, Michael Malone moved back into his parents' home in the Detroit suburbs and perused the basketball want-ads. Frustrated, he landed a volunteer assistant's job at nearby Oakland University, a Division II school where the Pistons practiced, and made a living selling sneakers at Foot Locker and cleaning toilets in a nearby office building.

"I was thinking, 'What am I doing here?' " Malone, 42, said Saturday in a phone conversation. "This is not what I envisioned. Being Irish Catholic from New York City, I also had an interest in law enforcement. I applied to the Secret Service but was told I needed two years in law enforcement."

Two weeks before Malone was scheduled to enter the Michigan State Police academy, Pete Gillen called and offered an assistant's job at Providence. While his father and mother, Maureen, continued jetting between NBA jobs and cities – New York again, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Seattle and most recently Orlando – Michael Malone spent seven seasons as a college assistant before taking off on his own NBA trek to New York, Cleveland, New Orleans and Golden State.

As crazy as it sounds, said Brendan Malone, there has always been a method to his son's NBA madness. Michael, he says, has been ultraorganized since boyhood. Of the six Malone siblings, it was his youngest who folded his clothes, separated his pants and shirts in the closet, lined up his shoes, maintained to-do lists and turned in his homework.

Other insights about the Kings' new coach?

Michael Malone has run two marathons, attends his daughters' swim meets and T-ball games, enjoys hiking in the hills around his home in Lafayette and, in what could ease his transition, loves riding his bike.

Not that there will be much down time. While majority owner Vivek Ranadive closes in on a new general manager – with an ongoing assist from unofficial adviser Jerry West – Malone will evaluate the Kings' roster, meet with his players, prepare for the June 27 NBA draft and hire additional assistants. Expect Brendan to be seated at his side, though.

"My father has been around so many different types of players," Michael Malone continued, "and he can be a great resource for me. We've talked about it. When he started, this was a men's league. There were 23 teams and a lot of tough players. No boys allowed. Now the league is so young, with kids going to school for one year, growing up playing AAU ball."

One bit of fatherly advice appears to have taken hold. Brendan Malone never tried to be Daly or Hubie Brown or either of the Van Gundys. Nor is he reluctant to voice a dissenting opinion. In a league of trends and copycats, Malone is no lemming. He helped Daly plot the strategy (Jordan Rules) the Pistons utilized against Michael Jordan in the late 1980s, and he later introduced similar concepts during his stay with the Knicks.

"We share a lot of common beliefs and philosophies," Michael Malone said. "My father is probably the guy I've learned the most from. But I can't try to be someone I'm not. In this league, you're always working to find your own identity. I have to be who I am and true to myself."

Officially, the Michael Malone era tips off Monday.

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.

Phone: 916-321-1208
Twitter: @ailene_voisin

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