Sunday Musings: Does a return of Geoff Petrie make sense?
For a long time, something has been missing with the Sacramento Kings. Talent is one issue, but from the time Rick Adelman walked out the door until the day George Karl walked in, the Kings were rudderless.
This isn’t a knock on the coaches before. Each and every one before Karl had a quality that made him head-coaching material. But Karl has a vision that he has repeatedly recreated over his 25 seasons in the NBA. That vision is something that Eric Musselman, Reggie Theus, Kenny Natt, Paul Westphal, Keith Smart, Michael Malone and Tyrone Corbin have not been able to accomplish yet in their coaching careers.
As the 2014-15 season winds down, we are starting to see trends develop with the Kings that make sense. Rotations are crisper. Passing is more fluid. The spacing on the floor is much improved.
Karl’s system is a thing of beauty. It makes decent players good, good players great and great players phenomenal. That is what a Hall of Fame-caliber coach brings to the table.
After years of searching, the Sacramento Kings are finding an identity. We saw one forming under Malone. A bare-knuckles, throwback style was effective, at least in the short term. But what Karl brings is time tested. It has substance and a long history of success.
There has probably not been a bigger offseason for Sacramento. This is the year that things have to come together. The right coach is in place, and now the right players need to be added.
We have talked plenty of times about the changes that are likely coming to the Kings’ front office, but it’s probably time to throw another name back into the conversation.
Before Vivek Ranadivé made his move to bring in Malone, Chris Mullin and Pete D’Alessandro, the fledgling owner of the Kings relied on a well-known face in Sacramento. Geoff Petrie spent the better part of two decades running the Kings’ front office and before gracefully exiting stage left, he helped Malone and Ranadivé prepare for the 2013 NBA Draft.
Petrie isn’t perfect. His track record took a beating over his final few seasons in Sacramento. Drafting Jimmer Fredette over Klay Thompson or Kawhi Leonard is a brutal decision. Taking Thomas Robinson over Damian Lillard is a franchise-haunting move. But when Petrie had real support from ownership, he was brilliant.
There are three facets to building an NBA team – free agency, trades and the draft. During his prime, Petrie mastered all three. Chris Webber was brought in from the Bullets in a trade for Mitch Richmond and Otis Thorpe. Jason Williams, Peja Stojakovic, Hedo Turkoglu and Kevin Martin were acquired through the NBA draft and Vlade Divac was a free agent steal. That is how you have to build a winner.
Petrie had an uncanny ability to find high basketball IQ players who could both shoot and pass. He turned over every rock on the planet to find Adelman the right ingredients to make his masterpiece. Those are the types of players Karl could really use right about now.
It may sound far-fetched, but Divac might want to make a call and see what kind of interest Petrie has in rejoining the Kings. He doesn’t need a fancy president of basketball operations title and he probably wouldn’t even want to be a general manager again. But the two-time NBA Executive of the Year is a resource that should not be ignored.
Sacramento doesn’t have the time to waste while the front office sorts out its myriad of issues. Karl, 62, is under contract for another three seasons, but that will come and go quickly. A new arena is 92 games away from opening. What Divac needs is a familiar, guiding hand to help him work through the pitfalls that any new executive faces.
Petrie could find talent for the Kings. More than that, he could be Sacramento’s version of Jerry West.
After a brilliant career as a player and coach, West proved to be a genius as the general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies. He retired from the game in 2007, only to turn back up as an advisor with the Golden State Warriors in 2011. His influence on a young general manager, like Bob Meyers, has proven invaluable. At age 76, he is a voice of reason in an otherwise complicated Warriors management system.
Chris Mullin was supposed to be that influence for the Sacramento Kings. But the Hall of Fame player-turned-NBA exec has struggled with the transition. At this point, his tenure in Sacramento has been rough and the Kings’ messaging during his time has spun out of control.
Maybe there is a spot for two advisors – one for Ranadivé and one for Divac. But it’s clear that if the Kings are going to succeed, Divac needs support. He needs a familiar voice in his ear that can help him lead the franchise back from a dark place.
Divac needs someone whom he can trust to help with both evaluating talent and working over the numbers as the NBA heads towards a new era of inflated salaries. Petrie accomplished plenty under a Maloofian budget. He created winners multiple times on a mid-market payroll and maybe his most impressive trait was his ability to completely control the message coming from the Kings’ basketball operations.
Ranadivé and his group want to push the envelop on analytics and the way basketball is evaluated, and that’s fine. But bringing George Karl into that environment already shows a willingness to accept that there is a happy medium between conventional wisdom and progressive thought when it comes to structuring a basketball team. Bringing in a seasoned front-office personality with a history of success to complement what you already have makes too much sense. It’s the next logical step after bringing in Karl. Geoff Petrie makes too much sense.