Sunday Musings: Vivek Ranadivé and an open mind

Vivek Ranadivé and his son André and Anjali. (Photo: Jason Wise/Kings.com)

Vivek Ranadivé made his second major hire yesterday, bringing in former Denver Nuggets executive Pete D’Alessandro to run the front office.  The early consensus is that Ranadivé has hit another home run with his general manager hire, similar to what the critics thought of the Michael Malone hire two weeks ago.

It appears that the new Kings owner is going to rebuild this franchise his way.  He is bucking the norm.  Typically, you want to hire a president of basketball operations first and then let him build the team and staff around him.  It’s an old school way of thinking that has worked in plenty of situations, but which has also failed.

What Ranadivé is doing is growing the Kings family organically with people he believes are the right fit for what he is hoping to accomplish.  It’s different, but who is to say that it won’t work?

The sports field is one of the few places where one executive is given so much power.  We have seen it in Sacramento where for the last 19 years, Geoff Petrie has controlled every aspect of the Kings’ front office.

For a long time, Petrie’s way of doing business worked.  He relied heavily on people he could trust like longtime friend and adviser Wayne Cooper, who has worked as the Kings’ vice president of basketball operations for 19 years and the team’s general manager since 2009.  Petrie even hired his own son Mike, who worked his way up to an assistant general manager position.

If you are ultimately going to be responsible for the product on the floor, you want to assemble your team.  From scouts to coaches, there is usually one voice that rises above it all.

Ranadivé is breaking that mold.  He began the franchise overhaul by first hiring Malone.  Next came D’Alessandro to work as the general manager and there is plenty of speculation that Ranadivé will eventually fill that last major position of basketball ops’ president soon enough.

He has inverted the hiring structure and it is both risky and compelling.  Why not try something different?

There is a symbiotic relationship between all of these positions.  A coach needs a GM to bring him talent, while a GM needs the coach to get the most out of the players he has.   There should be dissenting opinion in the room and a lot of discussion.  Each of these positions will be filled with a qualified candidate. They will each have a role and in the end, they will each have to figure out a way to meld their talents together.

Is this approach backwards in many respects?  Only if you believe that Ranadivé is going to be an absentee owner.  This feels different because it is different from what Kings fans have known during the Petrie and Maloof era.

Ranadivé often talks about surrounding himself by people who are much smarter than he is.  It usually gets a rise out of the room, but in this situation, it couldn’t be more true.

He has found a coach that knows more about coaching than he does.  He has found a GM that knows more about talent evaluation, the salary cap and the free agent process than he does.  Being smarter doesn’t mean that they are more intelligent than the billionaire software mogul.  It’s just that they have an expertise in something he does not.

Petrie and his staff failed in this regard.  They refused to admit what they didn’t know.  They refused to admit that there might be someone else out there with an expertise in something they didn’t understand.  And in failing to admit that, they weren’t always the smartest people in the room and they opened themselves up to failure on a larger scale.

There is a reason why Geoff Petrie doesn’t have a legion of disciples running front offices around the league.  And there is a reason why every year, people chase front office personnel from the Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs.

The NBA is more than just scouting a player, having an interview with them and looking at his measurements.  And it is more than just plugging numbers into a computer and coming out with a list of names.  You need all of these tools at your disposal to be successful.

We are now entering the new era of Kings basketball.  Vivek Ranadivé is a next generation owner.  Pete D’Alessandro is a next generation GM.  Michael Malone is a next generation head coach with an old school edge.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a place for an incredible scout like Scotty Sterling, a veteran assistant coach like Brendan Malone or even a Petrie-trained executive like Shareef Abdur-Rahim.

What it means is that for the first time in a long time, the Kings are going to look at the game of basketball with open eyes.  There will be mistakes along the way, you can’t avoid that.  But there will also be accountability and a commitment to making this team successful.  No stone will be left unturned.  No idea will be ignored.

Welcome to the 21st century Kings fans.

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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.