Mike Bratz, the region's Renaissance man of hoops, is back in the neighborhood. The former Kings guard and assistant coach has a new title assistant general manager and a 24/7 job that requires hours of grunt work.
Whatever Kings general manager Pete D'Alessandro wants, whatever D'Alessandro needs, that's the job description.
Evaluate prospects. Investigate backgrounds. Review stats and analytics. Watch film until the vision blurs. And consistent with the new NBA normal, sleep with the cellphone attached to the pillow.
The phone duties? Not a problem. Bratz, who graduated from Stanford and has worked as a scout, radio analyst, player personnel director and consultant since leaving the Kings in 1998, can sell peanuts and popcorn and even real estate if asked.
True story: After retiring in 1986 and awaiting assistant coaching or front-office opportunities, he was hired by a local real estate broker.
"I pointed Mike in the right direction and said, 'OK, sit there, and start calling people and ask if they want to sell their land,' " Steve Chamberlain of Colliers International said Tuesday. "Everyone knew who he was because of the Kings, and he capitalized on that. We were sad when he decided to go. But working in the NBA? That's just fun."
Well, not always fun. Bratz, who played for the Kings their first season in Sacramento, enjoyed the kickoff but missed the big bash. As an assistant on Eddie Jordan's staff in the late 1990s, he endured the miserable 1997-98 season that led to the Mitch Richmond-Chris Webber trade, the signing of Jason Williams and Peja Stojakovic, the hiring of Rick Adelman and in essence gave rise to the Kings as international royalty. Even working elsewhere, including with the Cleveland Cavaliers during LeBron James' first two seasons, Bratz remained connected.
He was a frequent visitor on scouting trips and at college tournaments, and because of his Sacramento roots (14 years) and family history (Bratz was born in Lompoc), he paid particular attention to the arena developments and relocation threats.
The Kings weren't merely a part of his past; the Kings were personal.
"Things go in cycles," said Bratz, his familiar mop of dark curls now trimmed and gray. "When I was coaching, it was a struggle. But we had really good crowds even when we weren't winning. Watching the good teams from afar, all that excitement, it was just great. We want to bring that back, get that craziness back."
Bratz, player personnel director under Masai Ujiri and D'Alessandro in Denver the previous three years, should be a great fit. Much like D'Alessandro and rookie head coach Michael Malone, Bratz arrives with a solid reputation and strong opinions. His presence and experience figure to bolster a first-time majority ownership group and reinforce what is quickly emerging as a "no-nonsense" mentality of the front office.
Bratz one of the first players to capitalize on the introduction of the three-pointer, by the way seized on fundamentals since his early seasons under John MacLeod. From Phil Johnson, he gained an appreciation for a specific style of play. Stan Albeck persuaded him to laugh. Jim Paxson, Herb Livsey, Mark Warkentien, Ujiri and D'Alessandro, among other front-office executives, influenced Bratz's expansive, evolving and detailed approach to talent evaluation.
"You take everything into account," Bratz said. "In these drafts, there are no sure things. I like to say I'm looking for a 'serious' player, like whether they want to be coached, do they have a desire to improve."
His early assessment of the Kings sounds the common theme. As yet, there are no dissenters in the front office. It all starts with DeMarcus Cousins, the immensely talented center who will be given every opportunity to establish himself among the league elite. And the chronic lack of defense and ball and body movement are being universally assailed.
"We have some good players, some very, very talented players who need to play cohesively better, and I think we have a coach who is going to demand that," Bratz said. "It's great to be back."
Call The Bee's Ailene Voisin (916) 321-1208 and follow her on Twitter @ailene_voisin.