Kings’ New Regime Changing Culture
VIDEO OF THE DAY – Mike Malone
HOOPSWORLD catches up with Sacramento Kings head coach Mike Malone at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.Watch More Video Here
It’s a new day for the Sacramento Kings. Terms like ‘stability’ and ‘consistency’ are being tossed around with a franchise that frankly hasn’t had any semblance of either for nearly a decade. After several years of being threatened by a potential relocation, the fans of Sacramento can finally rest easy. For now. Vivek Ranadive, a local software mogul, ended the final months of uncertainty when he was approved as the majority owner of the franchise. Pete D’Alessandro replaced long-standing GM and President of Basketball Operations Geoff Petrie in June.
Mike Malone is the sixth head coach the Sacramento Kings have employed since the start of the 2006-07 season. After serving as an assistant coach for the likes of Lenny Wilkens, Mike Brown and Mark Jackson for 19 seasons, Malone was finally granted his first head coaching opportunity with the Kings, a forward-thinking decision and one that makes sense for a team going through so much immediate change. With a new ownership group, general manager and head coach, the Kings are ushering in a new era.
Even the players are appreciative that the rumors and uncertainties have settled down under new management. Having spent his entire five-year career with these Kings, Jason Thompson can attest to things changing around the organization.
“It’s weird because I didn’t want to move anyway, so it’s good that I don’t have to move my stuff out of my house,” Thompson said. “It’s a lot of distractions off the court and things like that as players that we couldn’t control, which was a distraction. Now as players we don’t have to think about it and get to move on from there.”
Players and members of the organization had to deal with far too many distractions – internal and external – in recent years. The new regime is looking forward to moving past those distractions and changing the franchise’s culture.
“Everyone is really excited,” D’Alessandro said. “We’re young, we’re new and we’re trying to jump into this thing. We’re trying to change it around. Who wouldn’t embrace something like this? We’re doing everything we can to try to change the environment.”
Malone’s experience with various organizations will pay immediate dividends, as he is well aware of exactly what he prefers and what he won’t tolerate from his roster. Many of the players are excited to play with Malone, who has been lauded as one of the top assistant coaches in the league in recent years. Marcus Thornton has worked with Malone, and is eager about the opportunity to do so again.
“I was with him in New Orleans, so I’ve known him for awhile,” Thornton said. “X’s and O’s-wise, he’s right up there. It’s crazy because before he got the job I texted him that any coaching job that comes up it should be him and the next day he got it. He’s happy and it’s a blessing for him and I’m just anxious to getting to work with him.”
The team has already mentioned a desire to build a nucleus around DeMarcus Cousins, as the 22-year-old continues developing from a professionalism standpoint. Heading into his fourth year in the league, Malone describes Cousins as “fired up” and mentions how much the emotional big man hates losing. They’ve even reportedly discussed the notion of the playoffs, which would not have even been a consideration in years past.
“It’s been unbelievable ever since I got here over a month ago,” Malone said. “We have great fans, they fought like hell to keep this team in Sacramento and our owner Vivek Ranadive and our mayor Kevin Johnson did a great job, but the fans deserved the team. Now we have new ownership group in place, new front office, new coaching staff, so we can honestly say that we’re the new Sacramento Kings, a new birth and a new era. I’m excited to be the head coach and to start the change.”
Not only do the Kings have a solid young core of Cousins, Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Thornton, they also have a nice supporting cast to fill out his roster. Carl Landry’s signing provides interior toughness and a maintained effort at the power forward position. He’s battle-tested and will also be a positive model for the highly-talented Cousins. The organization also added depth and size to their backcourt with the acquisition of 6’6 point guard Greivis Vasquez in a deal that sent Tyreke Evans to the New Orleans Pelicans. D’Alessandro said he added Vasquez and Landry because “they’re guys that other players hate to play against” who will give the Kings an attitude and toughness that Malone wants to implement. The Kings also added Ben McLemore, the seventh-overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, who is expected to provide outside shooting and additional athleticism around the perimeter.
One player that was willing to go on record with his expectations for this new team was Thompson. As the team’s longest tenured player, Thompson has experienced every heart-wrenching moment of the 116-278 record the team has endured over the past five seasons. When asked about his goals for the upcoming season, Thompson didn’t hesitate.
“Just try and have a winning record, obviously try to win the division and get a seed in the playoffs, at least seventh or eighth,” Thompson said.
Coach Malone, while far from dodging the question, offered this response when asked about expectations for this coming season: “We’re going to take it one day at a time. We’re going to go through summer league, continue to work hard towards this and then have a great training camp. If we can develop our players, change our culture and establish ourselves as a defensive team, we’ll be fine.”
With the recent, seemingly-meteoric rises of teams like the Denver Nuggets and Golden State Warriors, there’s cause for genuine optimism for the faithful fans at the Sleep Train Arena. A building once known for its deafening crowds and, most distinctively, their cowbells can undoubtedly rise to such levels once again, if given a reason.