It's well known that Vivek Ranadive, a former minority partner in the Golden State Warriors, wants to impart that franchise's style of success onto the team he purchased in 2013, the Sacramento Kings. One of the fascinating facets of the Warriors that also aligns closely with Vivek's leadership philosophy is the idea of a front office filled with brilliant but opinionated peers.
Golden State famously has a brain trust led by Bob Myers that also features Jerry West, Travis Schlenk and the controlling partner's son, Kirk Lacob. Said controlling partner, Joe Lacob, is also rather involved on the basketball side. When a crew like that works, it really works. West offers legendary experience, Myers is extremely well-connected and has proven to be talented, Schlenk is a hot GM prospect and the younger Lacob seems to fit in well.
When you have a diffuse management team, though, and it's not working, it really does not work. And that's what Ranadive faces in Sacramento.
His first critical mistake was hiring a coach (Michael Malone) before a GM (Pete D'Alessandro). It actually wouldn't have been a mistake if Ranadive was truly dedicated to Malone and committed to playing the style of ball his coach thought best for the team. The problem is that Ranadive, his GM and his personal Jerry West (Chris Mullin) had a vision for the Kings' style that was essentially the opposite of what Malone gave them. They wanted free, fast and beautiful. Malone gave them tough, classic and ugly.
Ranadive claims he made the call to prematurely can Malone once DeMarcus Cousins caught meningitis this season, and Ranadive now claims he made the call to abandon the plan to let Ty Corbin finish the season. George Karl was hired at the All-Star break, seemingly to appease fans. Let's just say a 30-game preseason to close out the actual season hasn't exactly appeased fans. (This was billed as a good thing. But the team seems to have forgotten that many fans have already paid for their tickets for March and April and most fans are loath to spend money on glorified exhibitions.)
There's strong belief that D'Alessandro wanted Karl -- they worked together in Denver, and Karl's traditional style choices fit with the GM's vision. But by all indications, D'Alessandro really did prefer to have a formal coach search in the offseason, especially with a few high-profile chiefs on the hot seat. He vociferously assured fans Corbin would keep his job when the initial switch was made, and he had to have felt like a fool when Ranadive made him into a liar.
So D'Alessandro has now had two coaches, neither of which he actually picked. One thing you'll hear D'Alessandro say in interviews both public and private is that he's a "process guy." There is no process in Sacramento right now. Everything is being handled by whim and panic. Vivek is trying desperately to shake things up and win fans back after a brief honeymoon. So, he added another voice to the front office by hiring Kings legend and fan favorite Vlade Divac as VP of basketball and franchise operations.
Where does Vlade fit in? The VP title leads one to assume he is D'Alessandro's new boss. So the front office now features not just a general manager (D'Alessandro), an assistant GM (Mike Bratz) and a rather high-profile director of player personnel and analytics (Dean Oliver), but also an adviser to the chairman who used to be a GM (Mullin), a special assistant to the GM (Mitch Richmond) and a VP of basketball and franchise operations (Divac). Plus a coach (Karl) who has always wanted to be involved in personnel issues. And all of these guys serve at the behest of a controlling partner (Ranadive) who has hired two coaches and chosen one draft pick (Nik Stauskas) himself.
Say, I wonder how D'Alessandro is feeling about all of this. From Ailene Voisin's Sacramento Bee column on the matter:
[Ranadive] insisted on hiring Karl, a future Hall of Fame coach, and empowered him to begin the player auditions. He dictated hiring Divac, despite resistance from D'Alessandro and Mullin, and crafted a position designed to capitalize on Divac's unique abilities and background in basketball and business here and abroad.
Asked if he had concerns about the cool reception from some of his new colleagues, Divac said, "I'm here. We'll see."
D'Alessandro declined to discuss Divac on Monday. In a text Tuesday, he said, "Of course. We are happy to have him."
The weird, diffuse Warriors front office works because everyone is on board and everyone seems to trust one another. That's why Mark Jackson got canned: his philosophy and personality didn't mesh with what Lacob wanted. The weird, diffuse and grotesquely large Sacramento front office isn't working because the main protagonists are not on board, and because decisions are not made with regard to any sort of rational process.
It's becoming increasingly obvious that Vivek might next consider removing D'Alessandro and possibly Bratz and Mullin. The question at that point will be whether anyone with experience and cachet will be willing to step into this mess and start the clean-up.
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