After months of uncertainty, the Sacramento Kings finally have some degree of ownership stability, with software executive Vivek Ranadive officially approved as the franchise's new owner and the Maloof brothers officially deposed from their despotic thrones. In many ways, they're now just like any franchise with a new man in charge.
Somewhat paradoxically, that means they're about to enter a period of serious change. With longtime general manager Geoff Petrie's contract expiring on Friday and head coach Keith Smart unlikely to return, Ranadive is looking to overhaul the front office and bench staff. It appears that he already has a few candidates in mind. From Sam Amick for USA Today (via PBT):
According to two people with knowledge of the talks, the owner who formally took control of the team on Tuesday has already interviewed Golden State Warriors assistant general manager Travis Schlenk and Memphis general manager Chris Wallace for the Kings' general manager position. The people spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the search. [...]
Even though no formal announcement has been made about current coach Keith Smart, two people with knowledge of the situation said Ranadive is targeting Golden State assistant Michael Malone above all others and indicated that – if Malone agrees to come – his hiring could very well precede the hiring of a general manager. The people spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the discussions. The order of those affairs would certainly be unorthodox, but Ranadive has been a fan of Malone's for quite some time and appears determined to bring him aboard.
The interesting aspects of this news are less the names involved than what they tell us about how Ranadive plans to operate the team. Most recently a minority owner of the Golden State Warriors, Ranadive clearly likes what Malone offers and has decided to make a strong effort to bring him to the franchise. Yet, in doing so, he's also communicated that he's willing to make basketball decisions without the help of a GM. That's not to say that Ranadive will have to approve all moves or tinker with the roster above his GM's head, but he's signaling that he won't be entirely hands-off. Otherwise he would wait to hire a GM — someone who could suggest other candidates and provide another perspective — before going after Malone.
UPDATE: As reported by Yahoo!'s own Adrian Wojnarowski on Thursday night, the Kings and Malone have agreed to a four-year deal.
This approach can be both positive and negative. Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks has always been fairly active in personnel moves without his team suffering for it, yet New York Knicks boss James Dolan has often been criticized for going after high-profile players of questionable impact. In this particular case, it's worth noting that Malone is a very well-regarded assistant and has been mentioned as a candidate for several head coaching jobs in recent seasons. It could be that Ranadive's relationship with Malone gives him an advantage over the competition, not a biased view of the situation.
These decisions, as well as the manner in which Ranadive makes them, will set the tone for the Kings moving forward. However things end up working out for the franchise, it's refreshing to discuss the team in terms of their basketball decisions rather than the course or likelihood of a sale. After a long period of uncertainty, the Kings are ready to become a real franchise again. We'll have to wait to see what sort of team they become.