This was Gavin Maloof on draft night at Arco Arena. The Kings invited fans to come down to the ‘Ole Gas Pump and be a part of the new era of Sacramento Kings basketball. 20-5-5 later, we can see that the Kings ownership was not blowing smoke up our orifices. The culture of basketball changed in this town. Tyreke Evans is the real deal. Omri Casspi is a building piece. Jon Brockman is a new-aged bodyguard that would make Kevin Costner cry into his orange juice.
But the culture of basketball in a city (a struggling city for the past couple years) doesn’t just change because of a couple of players being brought in. It has to be a franchise-wide thing. You can bring in all the All-Star players you want but if things aren’t getting done off the court and the fans aren’t being involved and catered to then you’re probably just going to end up with a Portland Jailblazers situation from the early part of last decade.
On Tuesday, the Kings announced that John Thomas would be stepping down as team president. There were also several promotions and title changes within the organization. You can read about them here.
The Maloofs have been very diplomatic and mature in discussing the moves, careful to not disparage Thomas and his work here. He did do good things like get the Kings their current TV contract with Comcast (which seems like a basic thing that you’d broadcast all of your games on local television but six years ago, amazingly this wasn’t always the case). And from all accounts, I’ve heard that Thomas isn’t a bad guy at all (okay, I haven’t necessarily heard that. I’ve actually heard the opposite quite a bit).
The bottom line is that Thomas represented the old guard of the NBA. He was basically the equivalent to the Sheriff of Nottingham in the refusal to lower ticket prices despite a drastically declining product over the last five years. You bleed them dry and then pick-pocket their wallets as they leave the arena. It wasn’t until the Maloofs took a closer look at how their organization was being run that they seemingly realized this change needed to occur.
Think about how much marketing you see now during Kings games and on local television. Think about the billboards around town and local marketing campaigns geared at promoting the Kings. When this franchise was winning 60 games and setting the nationally televised stage on fire, how much marketing do you remember? I hardly remember any. The reason was that this team sold itself and marketing costs money. With someone like Thomas at the helm, you’re not going to try to connect with the fans. You’re going to try to grab them by their ankles, lift them upside down and shake them until the change falls out of their jeans.
Now, we’re seeing celebrations of a rookie who still has a month to go in his historical campaign. You’re seeing Dollar Beer Night to sell out a rare nationally televised game. You’re seeing campaigns to sell out special basketball nights for this team. You’re seeing birthday discounts and ticket price slashing. You’re seeing what NORMAL organizations do for their fans. The Kings are trying to reconnect with this community. They know they’ve tried to sell this city a bologna sandwich over the past couple years while calling it a garlic French dip. And now they’re in the process of making up for it while they put together a better menu.
Supposedly the response for next year’s season tickets is encouraging. Hopefully, the Kings won’t settle for jus that. The best thing for them to do is to make going to a Kings game as much a part of this culture as wanting to see the latest Tyreke Evans highlight. Ticket prices need to be slashed – like a lot. In order to get something long-term, you should be willing to give up something short-term. They’ve already cut 6% off of season ticket prices. Personally, I think it needs to be more drastic than that.
10 to 15% seems like a real gesture of wanting to get the energy and the crowd back in Arco. And it needs to be all over the arena. There should be nights in which kids under 12 get in free. There should be tons of ticket giveaways over Twitter and throughout the impressive social media landscape that the Kings are already cultivating. Bring the fans in at a big discount, get them hooked on a good product and reap the benefits when a new arena gets constructed in this town.
Whether my business plan for the Kings (which shows I know very little about business) or their own plan that was crafted by intelligent people gets implemented isn’t important. What’s important is that the Maloofs are more involved with the business end of it now than ever. Last I checked, they’re pretty good at business. They’ll bring in the right people to oversee what needs to be overseen.
The new culture and new day of Kings basketball isn’t just a marketing ploy. This front office shakeup proves that.