Vivek Ranadive has been the proud owner of the Sacramento Kings franchise for three years. Well, proud might not be wholly accurate. If there’s one takeaway from Sam Amick’s intense, extensive conversation with Ranadive (the column, Part I, Part II), it’s that owning the Sacramento Kings has been pretty awful for Vivek. In the interview, Ranadive comes off as caustic, disagreeable, hurt, and unhappy.
In other words, he’s the perfect owner for the Sacramento Kings. Just like the majority of Kings fans, he’s completely miserable.
To be sure, Vivek lacks even a remote sense of self-awareness. (Hey, he did learn something from Joe Lacob.)
Randive blames bad advice for hiring Michael Malone back in May 2013, when at the time Ranadive claimed to be enamored with Malone based on his involvement with the Golden State Warriors. He then hired Malone within weeks of the franchise’s sale, before the team had a general manager.
Ranadive claims he had to hire someone because the draft was just weeks away. He doesn’t have an explanation as to why that someone would be a coach and not a GM. He claims Malone and Pete D’Alessandro, the first-time GM Vivek hired in ’13, hated each other, and that’s what killed the team for the first two years. Ranadive hired both of them! Himself!
Ranadive claims the franchise was “a ghost town” when he took over, and no one wanted to stick around. Geoff Petrie, the longtime GM of the team, actually did stick around, and did some pre-draft scouting for the team overseas. Keith Smart, the incumbent coach, begged to be retained. (He was fired within two weeks of Vivek’s purchase of the club, and it’s not clear whether Ranadive ever met with him.)
He claims he never wanted Nik Stauskas despite making the call to pick Stauskas on camera as the Kings (foolishly, in retrospect) invited media into the draft war room in ’14. Vivek says he wanted Elfrid Payton, but asked the front office who they wanted and parroted it for the camera.
Let’s run that back: The man who says he does not meddle in team affairs, agreed to fake making an important basketball decision on camera, and now disowns said decision, blaming it on a guy he fired less than two years into the job. D’Alessandro is not beloved in Sacramento (to say the least), but that is just incredibly cheap.
The misery Vivek is experiencing as owner of the Kings can really be summed up in one quote about Rudy Gay’s desire to leave Sacramento.
Again, I was puzzled to read that I was involved in that (situation) because I had zero involvement in it. Rudy and his agent wanted me to be there when they expressed that they weren't happy, and I didn't really want to be (there). It meant flying out here (from the San Francisco Bay Area) and meeting (at Sleep Train Arena), and so then finally they said, 'Hey, just out of respect for him would you do it?' and I said 'Sure.'
How magnanimous! Getting Ranadive to meet with his second-best player, who is justifiably unsettled by constant trade chatter, is like pulling teeth. Ranadive also makes it sound like the Kings play on Mars. “It meant flying out here” — this is roughly a 25-minute flight on Vivek’s private plane. Has there ever been a better indicator that someone absolutely does not want to own an NBA team? Would you be surprised to see a quote from Ranadive about the inconvenience of showing up to opening night to christen the new Golden 1 Center?
Well no, actually, because that’s something Vivek is interested and invested in making sure it succeeds. He nods in that direction in the interview, noting that his efforts focused on the arena issue — not the basketball team — early in his tenure. This is smart. Without an arena in place by 2017, the NBA could have forced Vivek to sell the team, and relocation would have been inevitable.
That Ranadive won a public subsidy to the tune of a quarter-billion dollars, that he was able to quickly get a massive infill project built in California, that he deftly handled the politics of development in a town in which he had no experience, and that he has put his tech-focused imprint all over the new gym — this is Vivek’s success story. This is the fruit of his labor, the real prize.
Throughout the Amick interview, Ranadive tries to slip out of blame for the Kings’ continued basketball mediocrity. That’s a bad idea, because he clearly deserves some heaping portion of the blame. Take it! And then remind every Sacramento Kings fan that the only reason they get to be miserable together for decades to come is because of Vivek Ranadive.
Vivek should be the hero of the Sacramento Kings’ story. If he’d step out of his own way, catch some sliver of self-awareness and focus on anything but basketball, it might happen. He might even find some good company in the crowd. Sacramento Kings fans know all about being happy about anything other than basketball. Vivek could learn some coping mechanisms. Maybe someday Ranadive and the fans can experience basketball happiness together for the first time in a long time.
A man can dream, anyways.