In the opening hours of the NBA All-Star Weekend, Kings principal owner Vivek Ranadive met with Bee sports columnist Ailene Voisin for a conversation that touched on a variety of topics. Seated in the lobby restaurant of a hotel, Ranadive, dressed casually in jeans and a dark zippered warmup jacket, offered his thoughts about the season, coach Michael Malone, the proposed downtown arena and his plans to brand the Kings as a global team. He was particularly animated when talking about Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and their differences on the role of social media and technology in the in-game experience.
First and foremost, it’s been the most humbling experience of my life. The love and outpouring of support I get from the people of Sacramento is beyond my wildest expectations. I have just fallen in love with the place.
Yes, I get that, but still, when I see people bringing their kids, the people who work for the Kings, they make me feel so loved. There is a family feeling and a warmth and genuineness that is uniquely Sacramento.
I’m still interested in a farm. Vegetables, maybe almonds. My dad always owned a farm, and that’s been in my heritage. And the whole farm-to-fork movement, Sacramento is the capital of. So somewhere in me, I’ve always had that desire.
We wanted to be intimate, to keep that communal fireplace feeling. We looked at all the arenas, and I think what we ended up with the most intimate arena in the country.
Just kind of stepping back, when I took over, we started from scratch. There is no other word for it than a turnaround. We just paid $535 million for something that had no revenue, no ticket sales, an arena that is falling apart, that had chaos in the locker room, leadership that was falling apart, and so I had to just quickly stabilize everything. And kind of keeping with my philosophy of surrounding myself with people smarter than me, I think I’ve done that. (Team president) Chris Granger is one of the top guys in the NBA.
No, I just feel that I kind of understand that people have different views. This is a situation where we bought the team, we bought the Downtown Plaza and I’m a very optimistic person.
I think Michael Malone is going to be a great coach. He was thrown into a situation where there was a lot of dysfunction, and we said the first year is not going to be measured on wins and losses. Do we have a culture? Do we have a system? Are we developing our players? I believe we’re moving in the right direction.
Believe me, we’re not satisfied. There is nobody who wants to win more. Every loss is a dagger to my heart. But when I got into this, I said we didn’t want a quick fix. We wanted to build a foundation, so we weren’t going to take shortcuts.
Look, I know people talk about that my coach is always focusing on defense, while guys like Mullie (Chris Mullin, adviser) and Petey (D’Alessandro, general manager) are offense-oriented. And that we have offensive players. It’s no secret the game has become an offensive game, with three-point shots, layups, the rule changes. We all see it. So we have to reconcile that. And I think it’s good. If I had everyone who agreed, why would I want them?
I’m very pleased with those decisions. When I bought the team, everybody told me the first thing you should do is get rid of DeMarcus, including the previous management. But I just kept an open mind, and I interacted with the young man. And what I saw was a young man who wanted to win and had experienced nothing but chaos during his time with the Kings. Throughout the season he has proven that he wants to win, and he is maturing. I can’t fault him because he wants to win so much.
Sure, and I text him when I see something.
No, no. I just challenge him to be better, but I do that with everybody, including myself. I wake up every day and ask, “How can I be better?” I do have a million ideas, and every now then the coach will look at me and say, “See? See?” (Laugh) Everyone knows about the “V Play.”
Obviously Mark is a brilliant guy, and he’s won a championship. But we’re trying to do something completely different. We’re trying to build a global brand. His views on mobile – when he said in the Business Week article “When I first came in the league, I agreed with Vivek,” I was going to say, “Dude, when you came in the league that was the year 2000. That was a good seven years before my friend Steve (Jobs) created the iPhone. (Laugh). So I don’t know how you had an iPhone because there weren’t any. (Laugh) And do you want me to show you a picture of you texting at a game?” – which I did.
Your kids are going to look at their phone 400 times a day whether you like it or not, and if a fan comes and pays the price of admission, drives all the way, battles traffic, they should have at least the same information they can get at home. And they should be able to order food without leaving their seats. To knock mobile is a Luddite view of the world. It’s not one or the other. You can watch the game, high-five your friend, or interact with other fans. We want to be the showcase for the three vectors: globalization, technology, and sport as an agent to contribute to the local community.
I want fans to have content like they never had before. How many channels do you have on your television at home?
So we live in a world where everybody has 700 channels. And the web is infinitely diverse and big, and yet everyone’s bored. I think it’s the difference between Silicon Valley – and I don’t know what world Cuban lives in, but it’s an older view of the world. (Laugh). And again, he has been great to me. I have a lot of respect for Mark.
Right now, we’re just saying we’ll build out the fan base. When you approach these things, you take a long-term view. You don’t ask, “How am I going to make money right now?”
Yes. But we’re not that concerned.
It was a factor when I asked some smart money people to join me. I did explain to them we were at an important point in the evolution of the business. And, yes, in the past, most teams lost money. But with the new TV contract and all the things that were happening, this (NBA) was going to become more like the NFL.
No, no. We speak with one voice. We want to be like the Spurs, but exciting. It is entertainment. I want the greatest show on earth.
Fans, they love a bad ass! (laugh).
We’re entering an era where our kids will never read a newspaper or go to a bookstore. That’s why we believe in mobility, why I want to give our fans a ticketless, cashless experience. It’s a generational thing. I buy books and I read newspapers.