Hometown Report: Kings fan opens UC Santa Barbara's doors to team for camp
10/08/2013 12:00 AM
10/08/2014 10:48 AM
An inquiring text message led to a call.
Then a campus tour. Then a deal. All within days.
A Kings fan since he played football at Sacramento State 25 years ago, UC Santa Barbara athletic director Mark Massari offered new principal owner Vivek Ranadive and his NBA team its sparkling campus as a training camp venue.
Massari met with Ranadive, minority owner Mark Mastrov and general manager Pete D'Alessandro and showed off the picturesque grounds as if the guests were on a college recruiting trip.
The Kings signed on for a six-day conditioning stint, which concluded Sunday.
"It was great," Massari said. "It all really happened pretty quick. We've hosted training camps before, with the Jazz and the Lakers, but not in the last six or seven years. I followed all the drama about if the Kings might move, so it was nice to see what's happened with the new owners and management. Very impressive group."
Massari said he was especially struck by Ranadive, small in stature and large in "personality and warmth."
"He wanted to get the students involved – 'Let's have them shoot against Chris Mullin in a contest,' " Massari recalled. "You could see that this wasn't Lakers country here. There were a lot of Kings fans. And then Mullin did his thing."
Mullin, a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer and a Kings adviser, skunked the competition, making 14 of 15 three-point shots against Kings Jimmer Fredette, DeMarcus Cousins and Ben McLemore. Kings personnel handed out dozens of T-shirts and high-fives.
Massari said he doesn't know if the Kings will return but reminds that he is only a text message away.
Still, the Kings' networking continues. After working on Phil Jackson's staff in Chicago and Los Angeles and winning 11 NBA championships as a strength coach, Chip Schaefer worked the last two seasons at UCSB. He is now back in the NBA.
"Pete D'Alessandro called recently and asked if they could talk to Chip about their strength opening," Massari said. "They hired him. Hate to lose Chip, but that's a great place to lose him to."
In his sixth season with UC Santa Barbara, Massari oversees a staff that includes Bob Williams, the dean of Big West Conference men's basketball coaches formerly at UC Davis. The Gauchos are competitive across the board in the Big West, but the conference dropped football, like many others in California facing budget constraints, in 1991. And it won't return, Massari said.
Football identified Massari. He played linebacker and tight end for Vintage High School in Napa in 1986, helping a 13-1 team that beat Christian Brothers in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship game.
Massari competed at Sacramento State under coach Bob Mattos, including on the Hornets' last playoff team in 1988. That season, Sac State beat rival UC Davis twice, a fact Massari reminds brother Matt Massari of often.
Matt played tailback at UCD in the early 2000s, going 3-0 against the Hornets.
"I loved football," Mark Massari said. "But injuries hurt. I limped to the finish line."
The Kings are not Mark Massari's only basketball fix. Sister Michele Massari coaches the girls team at Sacramento High, the alma mater of Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. While practicing law in Sacramento three years ago, Matt Massari was part of a task force cobbled together by Johnson to combat the Maloofs' effort to move the Kings. Matt Massari now works as the legal counsel for Nike in Oregon. And yes, the brothers regularly discuss the Kings.
"He used to fill me in on what was going on with the Kings," Mark Massari said. "Now the tide's turned. I'm telling him what's going on."
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.
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