Vivek Ranadive had a deal in place with Michael Malone to hire him as head coach before he even became owner of the Sacramento Kings. The unconventional way of hiring a coach before putting front office personnel in place should have foreshadowed with what has been unraveling the past several days for the Kings.
Malone was fired in his second season after a somewhat surprising 11-13 start in the rugged Western Conference. DeMarcus Cousins has missed the past ten games with viral meningitis and the team expectedly has struggled, dropping eight of those ten games.
With Cousins not in the mix, opposing teams have been focusing primarily on Rudy Gay—which has reverted Gay back to the inefficient player he has been throughout his career. Cousins commands so much attention down low that it creates floor spacing on the perimeter that often led to higher percentage shots for players like Gay and Ben McLemore. With Cousins on the court, the Kings were a plus 12.7 per 48 minutes.
Ranadive’s inability to allow the staff he hired to make basketball decisions will undoubtedly hinder the potential of the Kings. General manager Pete D’Alessandro was hired to work in concert with Ranadive in making personnel decisions. Several different occasions through Ranadive’s brief tenure as owner can attribute to the growing rift between him and Malone that eventually led to Malone’s dismissal.
Since his days with the Warriors, Malone was widely considered a defensive coach. On the other hand, Ranadive wanted the team to run and play at a faster pace, similar to their Reno D-League affiliate. Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Ranadive wanted Malone to instill a four-on-five defense—something his daughter’s youth team did and was written about in Malcom Gladwell’s “David and Goliath” book—where one defender would run back for easy cherry pick baskets.
Furthermore, Malone’s desire to re-sign Isaiah Thomas over the summer and hesitance of long-term extensions to both Cousins and Gay were overruled by Ranadive and his front office.
Even with the addition of speedy Darren Collison, the Kings do not have the proper team roster to run at a pace similar to the Warriors or Thunder. Malone was simply playing to the team’s strength of a pick and roll half-court scheme for the offense to run fully through their best player in Cousins. Additionally, Cousins post-up game improvement under Malone has been a huge reason for the team’s fast start this season.
Factoring in the lack of depth on the current roster, the unavailability of their best player, and the ultra-competitive Western Conference, the Kings were surely going to regress to the mean at one point or another. With the tense offseason pandemonium, Kings’ management were waiting for any excuse to terminate Malone, and with their recent slump, they seized that opportunity.
In their war room on draft day, Sacramento is featured by Grantland. Ultimately, they decided to pick Nik Stauskas over Elfrid Payton—one they may surely regret in the future. The Kings have a similar player to Stauskas in the more athletic McLemore, and Payton would have been a quality perimeter defender to fill the point guard void, as Thomas wasn’t expected to return. This was a simple objective call, but it appears that Ranadive is the driving force behind all decisions given how much he’s talking throughout the video.
In the past, Ranadive has seemingly liked to engage the media about his team. Since the ousting of Malone, Ranadive took two long days before he finally addressed the media. He compared the organization chaos to that of a Sousa marching band, and they needed to shift to a jazz band.
“We had a Sousa marching band, which was needed when there was chaos, but now we need to shift to a jazz band, where people can be individually showcased and improvised. What we need is a jazz director. I think that’s the kind of leadership moving forward.”
With past history that shows Ranadive controlling the organization top to bottom, it is quite ironic that Ranadive points out that he needs someone with creativity and that can improvise.
Other reports have come out that Ranadive did not directly speak to Malone about his termination, and Cousins found out about the firing over Twitter—rather unprofessional on all levels.
As talked about previously, new ownership tends to come in and try to run their respective teams as their own fantasy teams, and Ranadive clearly falls in this category. Until he realizes that the front office is employed to do their jobs in making basketball decisions, the Kings will be stuck in a form of chaos and uncertainty.