Former Kings center Vlade Divac, the iconic international sports figure and most-beloved player in the team’s Sacramento era, is rejoining the organization as vice president of basketball and franchise operations.
Divac, 47, arrived in Sacramento late Sunday and completed the agreement Monday, The Sacramento Bee has learned. An official announcement is expected Tuesday.
His duties will consist of advising majority owner Vivek Ranadive, members of the front office directed by general manager Pete D’Alessandro, and the coaching staff overseen by head coach George Karl. Officially, Divac’s title places him atop the basketball hierarchy, though the practical implications remain to be seen. Divac holds strong opinions but seeks input from others, and has long been regarded as someone who manages egos, seeks consensus and is famously loyal to teammates and coaches.
He virtually anchored – emotionally and otherwise – the Kings teams during their most successful run (1999-2005).
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Though his listed responsibilities are far more expansive than those of the traditional NBA basketball vice president, Ranadive reportedly crafted the position to capitalize on Divac’s unique stature and background as it pertains to his overseas sources and contacts, his familiarity with the franchise and the community, and his obvious preference for an entertaining style long embraced by the respected Karl and characterized by both his Kings squads and the national teams of the former Yugoslavia.
A member of the historic 1989 NBA Draft class that included European stars Sarunas Marciulionis, Alexander Volkov, Zarko Paspalj and the late Drazen Petrovic, Divac, an affable 7-foot-1 Serb, remains a global ambassador for the game. His charitable work on behalf of children affected by the war in the Balkans throughout the 1990s earned him numerous humanitarian awards and accolades. Most recently, he completed a four-year term as president of the 2012 Serbian Olympic Committee.
In Sacramento, Divac was the first significant free agent to sign with the franchise and became its face. No Kings player was more visible or invested within the community, nor more symbolic of the organization’s emergence as an international phenomenon. And while he began and ended his NBA career with the Lakers, he retained a special affinity for Sacramento; his No.21 Kings jersey was retired during an emotional ceremony in 2009.
In recent years, Divac bought and sold interests in pro teams in Europe and scouted briefly for the Lakers before taking over Serbia’s Olympic efforts. But he often expressed a desire to return to the Kings in some capacity, particularly under the new ownership. The conversations with Ranadive apparently intensified when Divac accompanied the Kings to China for their preseason matchups against the Brooklyn Nets in October and continued on to India with Ranadive, minority owner Raj Bhathal and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.
At some point during that time, Ranadive and Bhathal were sold. Divac was irresistible. His hiring was inevitable. No one in Sacramento should be surprised.
Call The Bee’s Ailene Voisin, (916) 321-1208.