Sometimes there appears to be a civil war among basketball’s executives.
On one side are the “basketball guys,” the old-school minds who trust their eyes for their evaluations and are considered dinosaurs by the younger generation.
On the other side is the analytics crowd, the numbers guys the older generation sarcastically says judge players with calculators because they don’t know the game.
Then there’s Ken Catanella.
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Catanella, hired Thursday by the Kings as assistant general manager, is caught between the two, making him ideal for the new role. The Kings have been searching for someone who knows the NBA salary cap and the collective bargaining agreement to help general manager Vlade Divac.
Catanella is a numbers whiz who worked as a graduate assistant for the Duke men’s basketball team while pursuing his MBA. He played at Amherst College and professionally for the Cologne 99ers, and was the general manager for that franchise in Germany. Catanella also has worked for the NBA as a salarycap and analytics expert, and he’s worked on Wall Street. He was an assistant general manager for the Detroit Pistons before joining the Kings.
“My history in the game has been (across) the basketball spectrum,” Catanella said. “My education happens to be in the CBA and analytics, and that’s actually what I bring to an organization. So I’m very much looking forward to working with Vlade, whose basketball credentials speak for themselves.”
Catanella anticipates “free-flowing” conversations with the basketball staff as the team prepares for the NBA draft on June 23. In his five years with the Pistons, he’s learned the importance of trust and communication.
Detroit has revamped its roster over the last couple of years with timely trades to add key players (Reggie Jackson, Tobias Harris), which led to a return to the playoffs this season.
Catanella is enthused about joining the Kings and expects the team to become a “first-class, cutting-edge” organization.
“I’m energized by the concept of working with Vlade,” Catanella said. “His vision, his passion, I’m really eager to get to work to building a winning team with him for the city and the region.”
The Kings have needed someone with Catanella’s skills since former general manager Pete D’Alessandro resigned just before last year’s draft to join the Nuggets.
Divac had said he wouldn’t rush to hire a new executive, even if it meant hiring a new coach first. He said Catanella has all the qualities he was looking for during his nearly yearlong search to replace D’Alessandro, who ran basketball operations before Divac was hired in March, 2015.
“I’d heard about him when I was searching around the league,” Divac said. “And when I interviewed him, I felt very comfortable around him talking basketball.”
After D’Alessandro left, the Kings relied on Divac and assistant general manager Mike Bratz, who now is the director of scouting.
“(Catanella) brings to the Kings something I was looking for,” Divac said. “Especially analytics and the salary cap.”