Ailene Voisin, sports columnist

Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin: Kings could use a seasoned GM

Published: Wednesday, Jun. 12, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jun. 12, 2013 - 6:26 am

This Kings front-office situation – this search that seems to last forever, yet is barely into its second week – is a feast fit for Anthony Bourdain. It's the meal with all the ingredients, the sit-down that offers something for everyone.

Young. Old. Experienced. Neophyte. Stat geek. Intellectual.

Chris Wallace, Travis Schlenk, Mike Dunleavy, Kevin Pritchard and Bryan Colangelo are all available, and let's not forget that Denver Nuggets vice president Pete D'Alessandro, who trolled the backrooms of Sleep Train Arena while representing Jason Williams, is expected to interview for the Kings' general manager vacancy within the next few days.

New owner Vivek Ranadive has plenty of options, though for such an unconventional thinker, he boxed himself in to a certain extent with his hasty hiring of a head coach. Michael Malone, the former Golden State assistant, could prove to be one of those unassuming assistants who slides one seat over and becomes an instant celebrity.

But general managers invariably want to hire their own coaches, so this may or may not be an impediment. Malone is a rookie who has yet to stare down DeMarcus Cousins, convince the players that defense isn't a four-letter word, experience the wrath of the benchwarmers or contend with his boss after the first extended losing streak.

And Ranadive, a former minority owner of the Warriors, is a novice at these top-of-the-food-chain circumstances, too. Minority owners can listen and offer opinions, but they don't make the decisions.

While the new owner restructures his basketball operations department, the combination of a rookie owner and a rookie head coach screams for an established and preferably high-profile top basketball executive. We're talking about an older geezer who wears jeans and sneakers, who is attached to his cellphone, who has an intuitive feel for talent – always the No.1 priority – and a love of travel.

He can then hire the No. 2 guy, a less-seasoned executive who understands analytics, is skilled at salary-cap management and contract negotiations, and isn't shy about voicing dissenting opinions.

Hiring the top basketball executive is the crucial decision for the franchise – the choice will reveal much about the new ownership. This is the person who will dictate philosophy, establish an atmosphere and determine whether the basketball and business departments operate in harmony or in constant conflict.

"The timing is going to be tricky," Ranadive acknowledged several days ago. "But we not only want to put the team on a winning track, we want to sustain that."

Compared with the bizarre coaching and front- office shuffling of the Nuggets, Nets, Clippers, Grizzlies and other teams, Ranadive's deliberate search for a general manager is downright refreshing. Some might even say mature.

Since the sale of the Kings was approved by the NBA's board of governors, 12 of the league's coaches have resigned or been fired, including six who led teams to the playoffs and three (George Karl, Lionel Hollins and Vinny Del Negro) who led their teams to record-setting seasons; highly regarded general manager Masai Ujiri fled Denver for Toronto partly because his 33-year-old boss, Josh Kroenke, wouldn't finalize his contract; Phil Jackson has been all over TV hawking his latest book and expressing a desire to join someone's front office … and been ignored by all the folks he once joyfully tweaked; and Jason Kidd jumps into the mix in Brooklyn while Jerry Sloan, Brian Shaw, Nate McMillan, Jeff Van Gundy, Stan Van Gundy, Scott Skiles, Karl and Hollins crowd an uncharacteristically rich and talented pool of coaching candidates.

Is there a theme here? A trend? Shades of craziness or Moneyball or both?

Probably.

"This has been happening in baseball for some time now," said Eric Fisher of the Business Sports Journal. "For small-market teams that haven't been good for a while, you have to ask, 'What are you protecting?' There are no sacred cows. You might as well rethink everything, start fresh with a new approach. For teams like the Lakers that pay high salaries (and face substantial luxury tax hikes next season), every dollar that goes to coaches comes out of the team payroll."

Ranadive, who wants to expand the Kings' brand to India and elsewhere, stepped into a brave new world. But while he displayed decisiveness, even a boldness, with his quick choice of a head coach, the general manager selection is the harder one.

Keep in mind that coaches came and went for two decades under Geoff Petrie. So this is the hire that matters most.

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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