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Sifting through the Rubble

Trying to maintain a broader perspective on Michael Malone's departure and his clash with management.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Its now day two of the post-Mike Malone era of the Sacramento Kings. About forty hours as of this sentence since Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news of Malone's firing. At that moment, I, along with pretty much every Kings fan, was angry, shocked, confused, and bewildered at how suddenly the franchise shifted gears.

To be fair, it is to the organization's credit that they were able to keep the divide between coach and management in-house for so long to the point nobody expected such a sudden split. Because the veritable avalanche of gory details that has descended upon the capital city Kingdom since 10:00 pm on Sunday is almost overwhelming. Sure, reporters have said there were indications of a rift. But this? Had anyone (and I'm not talking about fans with hot takes, I'm talking about reputable journalists) predicted how wide the gulf was between the two sides? And that it would permanently fracture relationships for good?

As a fan, its necessary to try and filter through it all in order to maintain some semblance of sanity. Kings fans are amongst the most passionate in pro sports; we proved that by beating the odds and keeping the team right where it belongs during the relocation dramas. Its easy for things to turn ugly, to take sides, and manufacture heroes, villains, and martyrs. We have heard management wants to play four-on-five, use tactics from a gradeschool girls team, and forget defense while playing run-and-gun; what a bunch of idiots! We have heard that Malone resisted signing DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay to extensions, was against letting Isaiah Thomas go, and insisted on playing Ramon Sessions over Ray McCallum; what a moron!

Regardless of whether or not everything said about one side or the other is true, here is the most important fact that must be gleaned from the muck: the Malone/D'Alessandro partnership was doomed to fail from the beginning. And that partnership had its origins in the rookie mistake of a newly-minted owner, hiring his coach first and hiring the GM without weighing chemistry heavily enough.

Because of that mistake, it was always going to be a choice between one or the other. And regardless who the choice was going to be or when the choice was made, the decision was going to be brutal because both Malone and D'Alessandro, while not perfect, are good at their jobs. Malone, for all his faults, had rebuilt the defense to respectable levels, coaxed two career years (to date) from DeMarcus Cousins, and has his team ready to run through brick walls for him. D'Alessandro nailed the Rudy Gay trade and extension, the Ben McLemore selection is looking great, and the Darren Collison/Isaiah Thomas swap has been seamless. Both had done enough to deserve keeping their jobs.

But they both can't, at least not in the same organization. Although it is healthy to have opinionated discussion over direction, it can't be to the extent that it handcuffs the organization from moving forward. There are two extremes here; on one end, there is a yes-man who doesn't question anything, and on the other is the constant agitator who resists everything. I don't think Malone was on one extreme and I don't think D'Alessandro prefers someone on the other. But within the dynamic between a coach and GM, there has to be a healthy median, and it doesn't sound like Malone, whose reputation for being a hardnosed personality is part of his charm, was close enough to that middle point. Which is not to say that Malone would never work out as a coach for ANY management, but probably not for one with such stark differences in philosophy.

A lot of fans are upset that this departure happened in the middle of the season, but given that the split was inevitable, I don't think it could have come at a time where everyone was comfortable. If it happened last summer, the argument would have been that Malone was never given a chance since the roster was completely overhauled over the course of the season. If they had waited until next offseason, it would have been criticized as jeopardizing the significant gains and improvements made during the year. If you accept this divorce as inevitable, the timing was always going to be ugly in some way. At least now Malone has a lot of plusses to tout for his next job.

Time will tell if Vivek Ranadive made the right choice between Malone and D'Alessandro. We can debate day and night about whether the tried-and-true defensive, grind-it-out mentality or the wave-of-the-future ball-movement, fast-paced offensive mindset is the better way to go. That is a healthy discussion to be had. But it was not going to happen with both under the same roof. And all of this fallout from Vivek's original rookie mistake of pairing an old-school coach with a new-school GM, with no pun intended, royally sucks.