Ailene Voisin

Kings owner Vivek Ranadive apologizes for Geoff Petrie slight

Geoff Petrie
Geoff Petrie hamezcua@sacbee.com

You want a glimpse at how snarky relationships and exchanges can become between two men with accomplished résumés and massive egos who only briefly shared a common space?

Read the recent USA Today interview with Kings principal owner Vivek Ranadive and then check out the angry rebuttal in Deadspin from former general manager Geoff Petrie.

The entire matter was immature, unseemly and utterly unnecessary. This was a college 101 course on revisionist history, a my-turn, your-turn recitation of events that occurred roughly 3 1/2 years ago – a lifetime in professional sports – and at the end of the most emotionally exhausting, even debilitating period in Kings history.

Come on, boys. Let it be.

Didn’t anyone hear McCartney?

Before delving into the details, here is the latest update: Ranadive – who initiated the spat early last week by claiming, among other things, that none of the coaches or the general manager wanted to remain with the franchise he purchased from the Maloofs in May 2013 – contacted The Bee late Friday and offered what sounded like a combination act of contrition and concession speech.

“I wanted to sincerely apologize to Geoff Petrie and his team,” the owner began, speaking softly. “I meant no disrespect. I have the utmost respect for what they have done for the franchise and what they have accomplished. I fully understand that it’s a huge privilege to own a basketball team, and as chairman of the ownership, the buck stops with me. I accept responsibility for everything. All the mistakes are my mistakes.”

So back to the beginning. For the most part, Ranadive’s remarks in USA Today were familiar and scripted, repeated almost verbatim from interviews he has conducted with news outlets throughout his ownership. Once again, he portrayed himself as the white knight, the savior who rushed to Sacramento’s rescue, overcoming overwhelming odds and confronting terrible conditions in the old arena.

The roof leaked. The building needed a quick, if temporary, face-lift. The sales and marketing departments had been reduced to empty desks and a few loyal souls who stubbornly refused to believe the franchise would be sold to Microsoft billionaire Steve Ballmer, relocated to Seattle, and the Kings christened as the Sonics.

That is all true. The part about former general manager Pete D’Alessandro and ex-coach Michael Malone despising each other? That is also true. But here’s where Ranadive goofed and why Petrie is miffed: “I needed somebody to go and actually work out the players,” Ranadive told USA Today. “Nobody wanted to be there. There was no coach (Keith Smart), no GM. Geoff (Petrie) didn’t want to be there. There was nobody there.”

Actually there was. Petrie and his front office staffers stayed around during the chaotic, time-compressed ownership transition to scout players and help incoming coach Michael Malone work out prospects before the June 27 NBA draft.

“When it comes to some of the representations about myself and Keith Smart, and the management group that was there at the time,” Petrie vented to Deadspin, “it was basically, totally untrue. I brought everybody together at different occasions and said, ‘Look, we’re going to be professional here. We’re going to continue to work like we would every other year, and ultimately we will assist any new people that may come in here and try and make them comfortable and get situated.’ 

Petrie’s desire to share his contrasting recollections is perfectly understandable. He had a long, respectable run with the Kings and oversaw the most successful years of the Sacramento era. Though his final seasons were marred by poor draft selections, questionable coach hirings and ill-advised personnel moves, the Maloofs’ financial collapse and their chronic forum shopping certainly contributed; it had sucked the energy out of the building and significantly trimmed the scouting budget.

But when Ranadive took over, Petrie knew he was out, knew Smart was out, knew his son (Mike) was out. New owners typically come in and clean house, and the phone calls seldom last long. That’s the dirty underside of pro sports. Petrie’s own characterization, in fact, of Ranadive as “a very arrogant and dismissive little chap” seems unduly cruel. Maybe, in a sense, some of his anger is subconsciously fueled by the actions of the Kings’ former owners (the Maloofs) and his own failings in the later years.

And now, who cares? Petrie is history, Ranadive is here, and while the principal owner certainly inherited a mess – we can all agree about that and appreciate the glistening Golden 1 Center and its impact on our community – the former tech industry CEO has had 3 1/2 years to brush up on the business. Hopefully he learned something from the recent dust-up.

This is the Sacramento Valley, not Silicon Valley. Players, coaches and general managers aren’t widgets – they’re human beings. And basketball is a relationship business.

As the Kings approach a new era, a new arena, and an almost unrecognizable downtown, Ranadive should steal a few lines from Mark Cuban’s textbook. Cuban’s first few years as the Dallas Mavericks’ owner were turbulent and controversial. His players resented his presence in the team huddles, tired of his tirades against the referees and, in essence, demanded their own space.

Cuban listened, took a big bite out of humble pie and came back for a gourmet meal. His Mavs won a title, he developed into a prime-time talent in television and entertainment, and he is arguably the most influential and innovative owner in the league.

Ranadive does not need to keep reminding everyone that he heads the group that saved the Kings and is transforming downtown.

We can see. We know.

So again, listen to McCartney. Let it be.

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