SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Sure he thought about it. Vivek Ranadive didn’t get to be swimming in money and a majority owner in the NBA by not considering risks to big decisions. Of course he weighed the drawback to stacking one inexperienced hire on top of another.
And then Ranadive did it anyway.
He hired a coach, Michael Malone, who had never been a head coach before.
He hired a general manager, Pete D’Alessandro, who had never been a general manager before.
Ranadive will have a toast-filled honeymoon in Sacramento because he replaced the unpopular Maloof family and the Kings will bask in a new energy because of the turnover throughout the organization. The new owner is making daring first strikes, considering he has been the primary decision maker for an NBA franchise for all of about one month.
Ranadive himself didn’t want to do it. He made the decisions in the wrong order and hired a coach first, when he should have hired a GM and left the major basketball calls to the basketball people. But he was fond of Malone from their time together in Golden State. And when he narrowed down the search for a personnel boss and considered Chris Wallace, Mike Dunleavy and other veterans, Ranadive was ultimately won over by D’Alessandro.
“When I started this process,” Ranadive said after the D’Alessandro hiring became official Monday, “to be totally honest, I was biased toward having a GM who had experience. Many years of experience. It was a very rigorous process. I interviewed some hard candidates. Quite honestly, when I spoke with Pete, he was a long-shot candidate. I went through a very rigorous interview process. I put these guys through the rigors. It was a few hours long, asking several questions, detailed questions. I did everything short of giving them an IQ test. Which I would have done. But this guy is amazing.
“I called (Chris) Mullin and I asked him that question the next morning. I spoke to Pete, it was early Saturday morning, I called up Mullin and I said, ‘Hey, what about this guy.’ He said, ‘He’s the smartest guy out there.’ ‘Is he ready?’ ‘Absolutely. No question about it.’ He was head and shoulders above, in my view, what I was looking for. Like I said, he was the smartest candidate, the hungriest guy and the most passionate guy. And you see that with all the comments that he’s making.”
Neither are total newbies — Malone had been an NBA assistant for 12 years with four different teams, D’Alessandro had been the video coordinator at St. John’s, a lawyer with agent Bill Pollack and then well-respected in front offices with Mullin in Golden State and Masai Ujiri in Denver. Both were considered rising stars in their respective fields. But that is not the same as the No. 1 chair. There is a learning curve, and now the two most-important people in basketball ops, as well as the owner, will be in their first season on the job at the same time with a team in desperate need for stability.
“I said to Vivek, ‘I’m ready to go,’ ” D’Alessandro said. “I was ready to go the second I sat in that interview and I think it came across that way. You know Masai Ujiri and you know he’s a guy who empowers. (Nuggets president) Josh Kroenke empowers. Chris Mullin empowers. I got to do a lot of things for a lot of really talented people. Is there a learning curve? I’m never done learning. But as far as being ready? I don’t feel like a first-time GM.”
This part of the growing Warriors connection, Ranadive said, is more coincidence. The new majority owner came from the franchise 80 miles away, the new coach as well, but D’Alessandro’s time with Golden State did not cross with Ranadive. Similarly, he did not work with Mullin, who is on the verge of joining the Sacramento re-birth as well, likely in a consultant role.