Over this past weekend, Ailene Voisin posted an insightful interview with Vivek Ranadive in the Sacramento Bee (hat tip to Will Robinson for posting it in the Fanshots). I found it to be a must-read. The interview possessed several interesting comments and discussion points.
"I made mistakes," Ranadive said, "and I'm sure I'll make more mistakes. Hopefully, I'll make different ones. But I am successful at everything I do, and that's not going to change. We are trying to build something special here, not just for one year, but for many years. And I'm learning that the journey is not going to be easy."
Many of us (yours truly included) noted during the firing of Michael Malone and the ensuing public relations fiasco that a mea culpa from ownership would go a lot farther with the fan base than a weak attempt at justifying the action. Ranadive, in effect, does that here, albeit in sort of a blanket fashion.
As it pertains to the initial hiring of Malone:
His first gaffe, he said, was hiring coach Michael Malone before assembling a front office and selecting a general manager.
"Absolutely," Ranadive said. "People told me not to do that. But I knew Malone from when he was an assistant with the Warriors, and again, with the draft only weeks away, I had to make very quick decisions. I didn't know any GMs. At some level, this isn't rocket science. You hire a guy who is proven and successful, you hire a promising assistant, or you hire a college coach. We saw what happens when ..."
This was discussed here as far back as the moment that Malone was hired. As an owner, are you placing the cart before the horse when you hire a coach before you hire a General Manager? In this case, the answer turned out to be a resounding "yes."
Ranadive also dropped this nugget of clarification:
"Vlade makes the decisions," said Ranadive, noting that Divac's title as vice president of basketball and franchise operations positions him above general manager Pete D'Alessandro. "Two people report directly to me. Chris Granger, who runs the business side, and Vlade from the basketball side. I want to make that clear as we move forward. We have a lot of work to do, and we are all in this together."
A couple of things here. First, it appears that the Kings finally have an organizational flow chart. Perhaps they had one before, but it was impossible to figure out who was calling the shots. This seems pretty clear: D'Alessandro works under Divac, and Divac has the last word (Vivek notwithstanding) when it comes the basketball side of the operation.
The other thing that one can't help but notice is that the Kings once again hired a head coach (George Karl) before having the ultimate decision maker (Divac) in place. Certainly, exceptions can be made to any rule, and when the Kings had the opportunity to land Karl, they pulled the trigger. But that doesn't change the fact that Ranadive repeated history (and one of his self-admitted mistakes) when he hired a new head coach prior to shaking up the front office. This really isn't tempered much by the fact that D'Alessandro was in place, in my opinion, as D'Alessandro appears to be a GM in title only at this point. Best guess is that he is being retained for his salary cap expertise (Voisin noted that Divac assured D'Alessandro that this was indeed the case).
"All of us have different skills," Ranadive said, "and everyone has their roles. Vlade is a unifier, a conductor, and he is very smart. People probably don't realize that when he was back in Serbia (as head of the Olympic committee), he was dealing with political leaders at the highest level. He can interact with the person who carries your bag and interact with the president of a country. And he has a strong stomach. He wears big-boy pants. George, he is a future Hall of Fame coach. I have always respected him as a coach, and now I am getting to know him as a human being. And, yes, I ask dumb questions, and I am still an irritant. But I am counting on Vlade to pull this all together."
I like the dynamic, but it only works if everyone sets aside their respective egos and retains focus on the common goal of making this franchise relevant again. The thought of Divac as the glue, D'Alessandro as the numbers cruncher, and Karl as the coach and game technician certainly has its appeal. But as is the case with the actual roster of players, it only works when everyone sets aside their own personal agendas for the common good of the team. The cast of characters here has me excited and optimistic, but the recent transgressions and the potentially tenuous nature of these relationships is filling me with a little dread as well. It's easy to say that time will tell, but time has not told a kind story for the Kings in a very, very long time.
It's been a circuitous route from the hiring of Michael Malone to this moment. And I think that it's safe to say that had Ranadive hired Divac, D'Allesandro and Karl out of the gate, the vast majority of Kings fans would have been enthused and energized and brimming with unbridled optimism. Due to misfires of this past season, a good portion of the fan base has adopted a "don't tell me - show me" mindset. It's now up to the owner that saved the team for the City of Sacramento, the head of basketball operations that has his jersey hanging in the rafters, and the head coach that is making his last stop between here and the basketball hall of fame to produce fan-turning (and franchise-turning) results.