See update at bottom. -- TZ
Should the Maloofs decide that the rebuild has failed, or that it needs to be looked at with a new set of eyes, the path forward is woefully unclear. The Maloofs' own status is such that it's really impossible for fans to even come up with a prayed-for progression of change in the front office, assuming that fans want that at all.
Replacing a general manager midseason isn't terribly rare or obnoxious. After all, major personnel decisions primarily happen at three points: before the trade deadline (usually February, but March this year), at the draft (late June) and in free agency (July). Preparing for the draft and putting the team's cap structure in place for free agency, requires much of the first half of the calendar year. Now is key prep time for the most critical moments of the season. Waiting until the end of April to replace a personnel boss is, I fear, to wait too long.
But if you replace Geoff Petrie in Sacramento, you replace the entire front office. Interim coaches are allowed to manage players and strategies ... but you don't want an interim GM managing the very future of the basketball team without perfect comfort. Sacramento's entire front office is a Petrie production, through and through. Wayne Cooper has been with Petrie forever; Mike Petrie is, uh, literally a Petrie creation and Shareef Abdur-Rahim is more green than Humboldt County. You can't remove Petrie, promote his deputy and expect anything different. Cooper is Petrie, more or less.
So you hire a new GM. Sacramento is in relative shambles, though the two cornerstones have looked solid for stretches this season (a long stretch in DeMarcus Cousins' case) and the rook is doing well these days. But the owners are said to be broke, the arena issue remains up in the air (ever take an interview at a business that has no clue if it will be moving up to halfway across the country in six months?) and the team doesn't have a whole lot of assets. It's not an optimal spot to take a GM job.
Luckily, dozens of highly qualified NBA personnel and cap folks desperately want a GM job, so great candidates would pop up. Imagine you get one. How does he build a staff? Who would come over to this situation midseason to work for what we would assume would be a first-time GM?
Take a guy like David Griffin, Dennis Lindsay or Sam Hinkie -- respected No. 2 guys in their front offices, ones who have interviewed for GM jobs but never got there or turned a bad fit down. Say the Maloofs hire Griffin and fire Petrie in one fell swoop ... what next? Griffin isn't taking anyone from the Cavaliers' front office midseason, so you'd think. He's not going to be able to hire his own scouts and assistant GMs right away -- there would be temporary fixes at best, with some potential carry-over (like Abdur-Rahim, Fat Lever and Jerry Reynolds). Is that the change this franchise needs? Is a new head good enough?
Of course, imagine a new owner comes in sometime after the arena funding plan is approved. You would imagine he'd want his own GM. The very spectre of that possibility could take one or two of the targets off of the candidate list; people don't really care for instability and uncertainty. As a fan, I'd prefer one clean reboot: new owner, new GM, coach decision, franchise direction, boom boom boom. None of the ad-hoc stuff.
But in my opinion, there's no way Petrie should be handling the reins entering another potentially critical period. We don't need another John Salmons trade. We can't afford another John Salmons trade. As a fan, I'd feel more comfortable with a new voice and an uncertain future than with the current regime, under whom the future has become pretty close to depressing.
I hate to bury the lede, but there are rumblings on the rumor mill that, for the first time in their ownership of the club, the Maloofs are seriously considering replacing Petrie. Joe and Gavin continue to respect and think highly of his skill, but they won the last internal family battle over the club (staying in Sacramento vs. challenging Stern and filing for relocation, which George and the ladies wanted). If losses continue to pile up, especially bad losses, Joe and Gavin may lose this battle, and we may lose Petrie.
And yes, it is extremely unnerving to sit on the same side of an issue as George Maloof.
UPDATE: OK, I am not as clever as I thought I was, and that's not surprising. I thought I could write about this subject without coming straight out and delivering the news that, yes, according to people around the league, the Maloofs have been calling around in an attempt to find a replacement for Petrie this season. But since the news is a thing, I wrote it up on the mothership. I stress that there is nothing imminent, but that the Maloofs have very recently been preparing for a break-up. Hence, my pondering ponder on how you get there from here. Sorry for any confusion.