Vlade Divac is often considered the main reason why the early 2000s Sacramento Kings teams were such a success. Divac was the glue that held the locker room together and made everything fun. He's known as a people person who can build bridges in relationships.
Divac is in the process of trying to use those skills to turn the current version the Kings around as the Vice President of Basketball Operations and General Manager. So far, the reviews are mixed. He brought in a group of seasoned veterans last offseason to fill the voids in the roster, but it hasn't translated into much success on the court. Divac's draft pick Willie Cauley-Stein, however, looks like a solid decision. The Kings sit at 32 wins with two road games left in the season.
This coming offseason will be key for this franchise and for Divac himself.
Former Kings head coach Rick Adelman and former general manager Geoff Petrie know Divac well. These two key pieces of that early 2000s Kings era returned to Sacramento on Saturday for the final game at Sleep Train Arena and commented on what they thought of Divac serving as the Kings general manager.
"I congratulated him, we talked a little bit when he first got the job," Petrie said. "He's obviously trying to sort his way through a lot of different things that go along with the job and what he inherited and all that. I hope he has the time, the support and the understanding to get things the way he probably wants them to be."
Like Petrie, Adelman also spoke to Divac when he got the job.
"I wish him well ... I've talked to him, had lunch with him when he got the job. I think he wants to do the right thing and I think he'll work at it and he'll try to turn it around. They've got to turn it around, it's been a long time," Adelman said. "He's a good man. Vlade is a really good man, and I think he's been through a lot and he's ready for this."
Divac recently signed a multi-year contract with the Kings and reports indicate he is still looking for another NBA executive to bring in to work with him in the front office.
For those holding out hope that Adelman and Petrie would consider coming out of retirement to rejoin the Kings, both men seem to be set on not reentering the NBA. Adelman is busy spending time with his 10 grandchildren and said he doesn't miss the traveling.
Petrie has been enjoying parts of California he "didn't get to enjoy before."
"I really haven't spent much time thinking about that [retuning to the NBA]. I've kind of moved on and just enjoying life," Petrie said.
One thing Divac took from Petrie is where he sits during games. When he was general manager, Petrie could often be seen sitting on a stool just outside of the player's tunnel. Divac now sits in the same exact spot during games. Elaborating on how that came about, Petrie said in his first five years with the team he had to sit with former owner Jim Thomas in his suite during games. But that felt too removed from the action for Petrie, so he moved to the tunnel.
"The great thing about the tunnel here and the way this building is set up, at least for me, was its proximity to the bench, you can see the bench, you were close to the locker room in case anybody got hurt, or something happened or you just got mad and you wanted to go walk in somewhere," Petrie said. "And you could see the game great."
Petrie saw the game well enough to pull Chris Webber, Divac, Mike Bibby, Peja Stojakovic, Doug Christie and Bobby Jackson together. Here's to hoping that spot in the tunnel does the same for Divac.