Can Vivek Ranadivé learn from past mistakes this time around?
Ranadivé still has time for redemption in Sacramento
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Vivek Ranadivé wants to win. He wants to be known as the guy who saved the Kings and built an incredible new arena in Downtown Sacramento. Unfortunately, his legacy to date is not that of a savior, but as someone who can't allow himself and his franchise to succeed.
League sources have confirmed what has become one of the worst kept secrets in the NBA -- Ranadivé once again wants to challenge his basketball decision makers and potentially override a head coaching decision.
We can debate the best fit between the final three head coaching candidates in Mark Jackson, Steve Clifford and Mike Brown all we want. But the fact that we now know that Ranadivé is pushing for Jackson, while general manager Monte McNair is leaning toward Brown, is an issue.
We are not looking at another “1, 2, 3….Nik rocks!” moment, like we had during the 2014 NBA Draft. The front office and ownership are not on the same page. There isn’t a consensus, at least not yet.
There also wasn’t a consensus on draft night 2014, but that didn’t necessarily make the final cut from the infamous Grantland feature. That is also a story for another day.
The point is, this isn’t the first time Ranadivé has been in this position and if we are being completely honest, it likely won’t be his last. While he can’t be ousted as an owner, he continues to choose a path that alienates him from the fanbase and unfortunately has caused harm to the franchise.
For nine seasons, Ranadivé’s franchise has failed. His team underperforms. Chaos behind the scenes reigns. Coaches, general managers and staff members from every department lose their jobs. This is a problem.
Now we have a moment where a path has been chosen. McNair was allowed the leeway to make a franchise altering trade at the deadline that sent Tyrese Haliburton to Indiana for two-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis. The acquisition instantly jump started De’Aaron Fox and this duo are the new foundational pieces to the team’s build.
McNair has a ton of work to do in order to finish out the roster, but he has a vision for this franchise and it includes a head coach that fits the style of play and culture that he is looking to build.
The goal is to bring in a defensive-minded coach with head coaching experience. Sources have confirmed this, but so does the eyeball test of the three men left standing.
After two years on the job, McNair has never been given the opportunity to bring in his own head coach. McNair took the job in Sacramento knowing that Luke Walton was under contract for another three years and would be retained for at least one more season.
This is the same situation that Ranadivé created for Pete D'Alessandro in 2013 when he hired head coach Micheal Malone before a general manager. Malone made it just 106 games into his tenure before being fired by D’Alessandro.
A similar situation also transpired in 2015 when D’Alessandro was allowed to hire George Karl just months before he was replaced by Vlade Divac. Karl made it 112 games into his four year contract before being relieved of his duties.
Divac was knee deep into his own coaching search in 2016. He was performing his own version of a “comprehensive and process driven” search when Dave Joerger became available. Divac had his eyes set elsewhere, but Joerger got out of his contract with the Memphis Grizzlies on a Friday and had a new four-year deal with the Kings by Sunday afternoon.
Allowing a general manager to hire his own coach is paramount. You need synergy between management and the coaching staff and rarely have we seen these two on an identical path in Sacramento.
If you want to build a winning culture, it starts with continuity and clear messaging. This has been lacking from the Ranadivé-owned Kings since he took control in 2013. As an owner, Ranadivé has a 280-438 (.390 win percentage) record and his squad has missed the postseason in all nine campaigns.
At this point, Ranadivé has surpassed the Maloof family in consecutive seasons of missing the playoffs. That almost seems unimaginable when you consider that the Maloofs stopped putting money into the franchise and ran the league’s lowest payroll for years before they were run out of the NBA.
Ranadivé isn’t cheap. He doesn’t seem to have cash flow issues. The Kings’ payroll for last season was over $130 million, the highest in franchise history by far. He is all-in as an owner and he sits at half court cheering on his team every game.
In an alternative universe, Ranadivé should be revered in Sacramento. He is the man who saved the team from moving to Seattle. He has delivered on his promise to build an incredible arena and he has revitalized an entire area of the city. The DOCO plaza is an achievement that is completely overlooked, which is a shame.
But here we are again. At some point, it has to be about basketball. It has to be about winning.
It is okay for an owner to be involved in a coaching search. That isn’t out of the ordinary because he is the one who will cut the check for the coach and his staff.
Ranadivé can have a voice and should have a voice, but the final decision should be made by basketball people for basketball reasons. Nine years into his ownership of the Kings, Ranadivé is still not a basketball person and that is okay.
It may come down to this simple question -- does Ranadivé want to have final say in the next coach of the Kings or does he want to win? History says he can’t have it both ways.
If Ranadivé wants to change the narrative surrounding his legacy as owner of the Kings, he has to try something different. Ranadivé is still redeemable as an owner. He cares deeply and he is fully invested.
The last nine seasons haven’t been fun to watch and now we are at this important point where not only do the Kings have the longest playoff drought in league history, but attendance is waning and they need to convince their franchise cornerstones that this is a place they can stay long term.
There needs to be one voice moving forward. That voice needs to be a basketball person and since Monte McNair is being paid to be that person, he needs to be empowered to make the decision he feels is best for the future of the franchise, be that Jackson, Clifford or Brown.
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