Ailene Voisin: Ranadive should overhaul Kings' staff

05/18/2013 12:00 AM

10/03/2013 3:35 PM

Once his purchase of the Kings is finalized, Vivek Ranadive should take a pick and a shovel, perhaps borrow a battering ram and a bulldozer, and obliterate the section of Sleep Train Arena that houses the team's basketball operations.

While this is regarded as a weak draft class, there is no shortage of talent on the front-office or coaching markets.

Veteran coaches Jerry Sloan, Nate McMillan, Jeff and Stan Van Gundy are available, as are highly regarded assistants Mike Malone and Brian Shaw. Established front-office types eager to join or take over a staff include Larry Bird, Don Nelson and Chris Mullin. And while Warriors special assistant Jerry West undoubtedly would push Golden State's Travis Schlenk, another famous former coach is itching to become involved in personnel.

Phil Jackson here, Jeanie Buss down there? Dare we be tempted to discuss?

Who knows? New bosses tend to hire people they know, so keep an eye on current Warriors. And Ranadive has yet to even reveal the extent of the anticipated overhaul. But his track record within the software industry suggests someone who moves swiftly.

"In terms of the basketball process, it's not overnight," Ranadive told Bee writers in a Friday teleconference. "We had a playbook with the Warriors. I can promise you we're going to have very, very, very smart people. We like to be innovative, think outside the box. But we don't have any preconceived notions about who can do what. We have very open minds."

So, OK, while Ranadive at least publicly isn't closing any doors on Geoff Petrie and his staff or Keith Smart and his staff, some of this stuff is simply too obvious. Significant change is inevitable. Tuesday's NBA lottery appearance will be one too many. Instead of becoming more proficient at projecting and drafting future stars, Kings executives stumbled into a deepening and profound funk.

Petrie, whose contract is expiring, can't turn on his television without being pummeled by his diminished body of work, by visions of his once-golden touch crushed by his very own hands of stone.

Last year's first-round draft choice, Thomas Robinson, who dropped to the Kings at No. 5 for reasons that became apparent early in the season and prompted his trade to Houston, didn't get off the bench during the Rockets' postseason.

Three of Golden State's dynamic young starters – Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes – could be in the Kings' lineup with DeMarcus Cousins. Instead, in the past three drafts, Curry, Thompson and Barnes were bypassed, respectively, for Tyreke Evans, a John Salmons/Jimmer Fredette maneuver and the disappointing Robinson.

Memphis Grizzlies CEO Jason Levien, an aggressive, innovative attorney who swapped overpaid Rudy Gay in a three-team deal that netted Tayshaun Prince in one of the season's shrewdest moves, was hired and fired by Petrie because of clashing personalities and philosophies.

And Smart? His future has to be equally tenuous. Ranadive was a member of the Warriors' ownership hierarchy when the Kings' current coach was replaced by Mark Jackson, a brazen, big-talking coaching neophyte who delivered. He established a structure and team identity, and in his second season in Oakland, orchestrated the Warriors' surprising and wonderfully entertaining playoff run.

Sports, of course, is cyclical. Not so long ago, the Maloofs were kings, and Vlade Divac, Chris Webber and Peja Stojakovic were international darlings welcomed in arenas here and elsewhere because they put fannies in the seats.

While Webber's knee injury accelerated the Kings' decline, and the Maloofs' shrinking financial empire and the relocation reports exacerbated the miserable, at times debilitating, circumstances, Petrie and the coaches weren't the only people affected. There have been a lot of long nights lately at Sleep Train.

And these past few weeks? When the Kings appeared headed to Seattle? Then seemed destined to be moving only a few miles away, into yet-to-be constructed digs at the Downtown Plaza? And then maybe not? According to one employee, anxiety reached an entirely new level.

"This was pulling people apart," he said. "We tried to stop talking about it when we were in the office, but it was hard. Then we got an email from Joe (Maloof) late Wednesday night, thanking us for all our efforts, so we figured it was a done deal and we were staying. Those of us from Sacramento were ecstatic, just so happy for the team. No matter what happens with our jobs, at least we can move on with our lives now."

Pressed about his imminent plans, Ranadive said that once the sale is finalized, he will meet with and start evaluating current employees at all levels.

"Many of the people have a great reputation," added the Kings' incoming majority partner. "Go talk to everyone. I am itching to do that. Start getting to know people. I don't have a master plan where I walk in and make sweeping changes."

That's great news for the lesser-paid, behind-the-scenes folks. But at the top of the basketball food chain? A pick, a shovel, a battering ram. A massive rebuilding project awaits, and it starts long before the city breaks ground on that new arena.

Call The Bee's Ailene Voisin (916) 321-1208 and follow her on Twitter @ailene_voisin.

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