Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee has been hitting it out of the park lately with her commentary on the Maloofs and the Kings organization. Sunday featured another excellent article in which she called on the Maloof Family to step up to the plate and fix this never-ending train wreck.
According to Voisin, the Maloofs are "paralyzed by a fear of stumbling into another political and public relations quagmire." Yet by doing nothing, all they are doing is turning public opinion against them even more. With every rumor of relocation and every non-statement from Los Angeles based spokesperson Eric Rose, the fanbase keeps finding new ways to fuel the flames against ownership.
It also doesn't help that the team is not performing to expectations. I don't think anyone expected a playoff team, but right now the Kings are just 4-12 and the season already looks lost. The team hasn't won more than 25 games since 2007-08, when they went 38-44. Much of that blame has to be on long time executive Geoff Petrie, who has been in charge of the very unsuccessful rebuild. Petrie has been long thought to be a sacred cow for the Maloofs, untouchable in most respects, but Voisin suggests otherwise. Petrie is in the last year of his contract but could be gone much sooner if the losing continues. This is notable since Petrie has never really been in the hot seat since arriving in Sacramento 19 years ago.
Another person that would seemingly be in the hot seat is Head Coach Keith Smart, but according to Voisin, the Maloofs "wholeheartedly" support him. Smart has lost a lot of fans this year due to his rotations and the inability of the team to execute his offense, but again, he has to work with the hand he's dealt and he hasn't been dealt a great hand.
On the topic of relocation, Voisin says that George Maloof is the big backer of the Virginia Beach plan, which would be almost 90% publicly funded. Even I have to agree that if they could actually get an arena 90% paid for, that's a deal they have to take. The hard part is actually getting that to go through though and it will be a tough sell for the state of Virginia and city of Virginia Beach to pony up that much cash.
Voisin also says that besides Virginia Beach, the Maloofs have heard from Seattle, San Diego, Kansas City, Mo., and St. Louis. Seattle is only a threat if the Maloofs sell, which apparently is not in the cards per Voisin. This is kind of a good thing, because there is almost no way that a local buyer would be able to outbid Chris Hansen's group should the team be put up for sale.
Another option is renovation. This charge is being spearheaded by Greg Van Dusen, one of the former executives who helped build the current arena. According to Voisin, Van Dusen0 recently had a meeting with the Maloofs and left encouraged. The renovation would cost $120 to $150 million but it's unclear where that money would come from. Mayor Kevin Johnson and the city have made it clear in the past that they will not give public money to a renovation project so it will be interesting to hear the exact details of how Van Dusen and co. plan on financing such a renovation and if it is indeed feasible.
Like it or not, the Maloofs hold the key to Sacramento's sports future. To keep the team here, we'll need them on board with some sort of plan, but it will help if they win back some of the public trust by being more open and honest. No more of these "we won't comment on every relocation rumor, etc." statements. If they truly want to stay in Sacramento, they need to be up front and center trying to figure out a way to stay. If they truly care about the performance of their team, they need to hold the people in charge of constructing the team accountable.
In the end, all we fans want is for our team to be here in Sacramento, and to be able to be entertained on a consistent basis. But for the last three years, we've had none of the security of the former, and much too little of the latter.
The ball is in the Maloofs' court. Will they step up to the plate for the city and fans they proclaim to love? Or will they continue to show the same seeming apathy and disinterest as their team seems to?
Hat-tip to soccerbum26 for the FanShot and to Ailene Voisin for the excellent article, which you should read in its entirety.