Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin: Ex-King Doug Christie keeps it real in life, on TV

Former Sacramento Kings player Doug Christie talks with Kings announcer and former Kings coach Jerry Reynolds before the Kings game against the Phoenix Suns at Sleep Train Arena on Friday, March 25, 2016 in Sacramento.
Former Sacramento Kings player Doug Christie talks with Kings announcer and former Kings coach Jerry Reynolds before the Kings game against the Phoenix Suns at Sleep Train Arena on Friday, March 25, 2016 in Sacramento. hamezcua@sacbee.com

Doug Christie left the Kings quietly a decade ago and returned almost as quietly.

Before the team and the community found the last-gasp survival kit – when a group led by Vivek Ranadive purchased the team three springs ago – the popular but reserved former guard attended the rallies, the fan fests and, ultimately, the celebration that left potential poachers searching elsewhere for an NBA franchise.

But give the man a microphone, and he is the voice that screams to be heard.

Christie, who splits duties as one of the Kings’ radio and television analysts, has emerged as a candid, sometimes kooky, often corny, but unfailingly entertaining addition to the radio crews. He talks the game the way he played the game: teeming with passion and an undercurrent of nuance.

The Kings became relevant in the 1998 offseason when they signed Vlade Divac and Peja Stojakovic, traded for Chris Webber and drafted Jason Williams, but their championship aspirations became legitimate only after Christie and Bobby Jackson joined Mike Bibby in the backcourt. If Bibby was an elite shotmaker and crafty scorer, and Jackson the 100-mph gnat who attacked and harassed, Christie was the director of the symphony, a long-limbed lockdown defender, a cerebral veteran who played to his teammates’ strengths, yet owned the versatility to stuff the box score with triple doubles.

He also was a man of quick feet and very few words. Chasing Christie down after games would have done a number on a Fitbit. His nightly routine consisted of showering hurriedly, changing into street clothes, then slipping out a side door to reunite with his wife, Jackie, seemingly forever at his side.

Jackie is still at his side, most of the time, and the couple renew their vows every summer. But what once made for great NBA theater plays out to an even wider-ranged audience today. While Doug’s role has expanded on KHTK 1140 and CSN California, Jackie stars on the VH1 hit reality series “Basketball Wives LA.”

During a rare visit to Sleep Train Arena for Friday’s Kings-Suns game, she was constantly recognized and repeatedly approached by clusters of fans seeking autographs and photos.

“It’s great to see everybody again,” she said, smiling. “I don’t get up here very often, and it’s back to L.A. (Saturday) for filming.”

Doug, 45, credits his wife for kick-starting his broadcasting career. After the family relocated to Los Angeles to accommodate Jackie’s film schedule, she persuaded her husband to participate in a Blog Talk Radio show to discuss intimate relationships.

“But we also spent 30 minutes talking about sports,” he said. “The show ran for about two years, and it really helped me out. I learned how to talk on the radio, fill airspace and found out it was a lot of fun. One of the great things about what I’m doing now is that I’m working with great people who have allowed me to show my personality, to be myself.”

Despite his late-night attempts to escape the arena before the media converged, chasing down the popular former King was worth the sprint. Even as a player, he spoke a coach’s language, offering his thoughts in an analytical, succinct manner. There was nothing canned about Christie.

This is the player who famously admitted that he “choked” and succumbed to the moment in Game 7 of the 2002 Western Conference finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. In his follow-up comments, he owned his remarks, adding that he “learned” from the experience and hoped to take advantage of a similar opportunity in the future.

That never happened, of course, and by 2005 the Kings’ best roster had been gutted before the first of many rebuilding phases. After brief stops with Orlando, Dallas and the Clippers, Christie retired and devoted his endless energy toward developing young players.

These dueling interests present a potential career dilemma. To stick with radio and television broadcasting, or continue his pursuit of an assistant coaching position within the league? Just a hunch here, but do not be shocked if Christie at some point selects Door No. 2. The one-time All-NBA defender has reached out to a number of organizations and inquired about openings, and every year during the playoffs, he charts games with the detail of an opposing scout.

“When I was a player, if someone said there would be a time when I wanted to coach, I would have said, ‘Um, not so much,’ ” Christie said, laughing. “But I find it intriguing, figuring out how to bridge the gap between mind, body, sport, because each player is different. You can’t teach the same way. The dynamics of a team are so interesting. That’s why, in my opinion, Vlade is the best person for his job. He is a humanitarian who understands people. He has been in the mix. He knows the mix has to work. And I think he is going to put together the right cast of characters.”

The current Kings’ lack of cohesion, both offensively but particularly defensively, often leaves Christie apoplectic. He can be seen tapping his pen, bouncing in his chair, frustration etched all over his angular features. Deep down, he remains true to character: transparent, unscripted, hyper-energetic. This is the same person, remember, who tussled with Laker Rick Fox in the back tunnel area during a preseason game at Staples Center.

“Doug can be a little over the top,” longtime Kings analyst Jerry Reynolds said, with a chuckle, “but he is good at anything he does.”

As for his assistant coaching prospects? Christie, who receives high praise from his broadcast colleagues for his preparation and commitment, and who is looking at area high schools for his son, Doug Christie Jr., wants his career choices to evolve naturally.

“I keep it organic,” he said, smiling. “I don’t judge people by what other people say. If everyone judged me by what other people said, you would think I was crazy! But you know me. I am a good guy. I work hard.

“If a coaching opportunity came along, that would be a very hard choice.”

Keep an eye on Door No. 2.

Editor’s note: This column was updated on March 28 to correct that Doug Christie works for CSN California.

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