Jerry Reynolds and the trade that changed Sacramento Kings history

Jerry Reynolds and Gary Gerould (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

During the final game of the 2013-14 Sacramento Kings season, Jerry Reynolds stood at half court with a handful of others to celebrate Mitch Richmond and his induction into the Naismith Hall of Fame.  It was a celebration for everyone, from Kings fans to anyone who has ever been involved with the franchise.  But for Reynolds, there was more to it.  After 28 years in the Kings front office, Richmond is his crowning achievement.

Outside of winning a championship, having one of your players enter the Hall is precisely what every general manager dreams to accomplish.

Reynolds has always been the jack of all trades for the Kings.  He’s worn almost every hat imaginable in his time with the team, including head coach and general manager.  With the introduction of new owners, management and coaches, Reynolds stepped down as the team’s Director of Player Personnel before the 2013-14 season, making this the first time since 1985 that he wasn’t a part of the management team.  He can still be found on the television broadcast alongside longtime partner Grant Napear, and next season he will celebrate his 30th season with the franchise.

When all is said and done, Reynolds will likely have a banner hanging from the rafters in his honor.  Not just for his longevity with the team, but for his contributions to the franchise, as well.

Reynolds acted as the team’s general manager during the 1990-1993 drafts.  The 1990 Draft was the most memorable, mainly because Sacramento held four first-round picks (7, 14, 18, 23).  The crop of young players never fully materialized.  Lionel Simmons was the best of the lot, but a knee injury following his fourth season with the team completely changed the trajectory of his career.

Overall, Simmons played seven seasons in the league, which is much better than the three seasons logged by No. 14 overall pick Travis MaysDuane Causwell (18) and Anthony Bonner (23) played out their careers as journeymen bigs.  None of the four made a huge splash in the league.

After drafting so many young players the season before, Sacramento decided not to add to the youth movement the next season. Armed with the third pick in the draft, Reynolds made a deal with the Golden State Warriors that will go down as one of the greatest trades in NBA history.

“That was a very special moment for me, selfishly,” Reynolds told Cowbell Kingdom.  “Because there was a lot of criticism associated with that trade at the time.”

According to Reynolds, the Kings and Warriors had worked out a deal before the draft to trade the third pick, which Golden State used to select Billy Owens and in exchange, Sacramento landed 26-year-old Mitch Richmond.

Richmond was coming off a season in which he averaged 23.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists as a member of Run TMC, the high-flying offensive machine led by legendary head coach Don Nelson.

The transaction didn’t go as planned.  In 1991, there was no rookie salary scale in place and Owens held out for more money. Eventually, Richmond joined the Kings and Owens the Warriors, but not until Nov. 1 when the Reynolds agreed to take back Les Jepsen in the deal to make the salaries work out.

We know how the story goes from here.  Richmond continued his dominant play, making six straight All-Star appearances and going down as one of the best shooting guards of his era not named Michael Jordan.  He will be formally enshrined in the Naismith Hall of Fame later this year, becoming the first Sacramento-era player to gain such an honor.

“Mitch obviously gave the franchise its first legitimate major star, which I thought we really needed,” Reynolds said.  “In my mind, that draft couldn’t do that.  And it didn’t of course.”

Owens would go on to play 10 unspectacular years in the league, even making his way back to Sacramento for two and half seasons to play with Richmond in the mid-90s.

The 1991 Draft produced a few other players that made a tremendous impact on the league.  Dikembe Mutombo was taken with the fourth pick, but according to Reynolds, his agent at the time had made it very clear to the Kings that he wasn’t coming to Sacramento.

Steve Smith, whom the Kings liked a great deal, went No. 5 to Miami.  But Richmond gave the team a player with veteran experience and tremendous talent.

Reynolds would go on to draft Walt Williams in the 1992 Draft, followed by Bobby Hurley the following season.  Williams made his way around the league, playing 11 seasons for six different teams.  Hurley nearly died in a vehicle accident 19 games into his NBA career.  He played five seasons in the league, but was a shadow of his former self after the accident.  He retired following the 1997-98 season at the age of 26.

In 1994, Reynolds handed the team over to Geoff Petrie, who went on to assemble the team that went to eight straight playoffs from 1999-2006.  But it was a trade made long before that set all of the wheels in motion.

With Richmond’s career winding down, Petrie dealt the then-nearly 33-year-old guard, along with 36-year-old Otis Thorpe to the Washington Wizards for Chris Webber.

“There’s never been a player more valuable to the franchise than Mitch Richmond,” Reynolds said with a chuckle.  “I always kid him that he was the best thing coming and going.  We got all the best years out of Webber and we got all the best years out of Mitch.”

History may not look too kindly on the four-year run Jerry Reynolds had as the general manager of the Sacramento Kings, but maybe it should.  For a franchise that has often struggled to find its way, he is the man who made Billy Owens turn into Mitch Richmond, who eventually became Chris Webber.  When it’s all said and done, Webber will likely join Richmond in the Hall of Fame, making Reynolds’ initial deal look more like Billy Owens for the two greatest players in the Sacramento Kings era of basketball.

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About: James Ham

James Ham provides coverage through news analysis and in-depth interviews with Kings players and staff. James is also one of the producers behind the award-winning, independent documentary "Small Market, Big Heart". James graduated UC Davis with a degree in history and is happily married with two children.