The transformation of the Sacramento Kings has officially begun. Earlier today, new majority owner Vivek Ranadivé introduced Mike Malone to the capital city as the franchise’s 25th coach in franchise history.
Change has clearly arrived in a major way to the Kings. But one thing that isn’t going to change under the new regime is the franchise’s commitment to DeMarcus Cousins.
“I’m gonna go with him with open arms and accept him,” the new Kings coach said of the 22-year-old center. “Because we all know on any given night, he’s the most talented big man in the NBA and there’s not many guys out there (like that).
“You just don’t get rid of those guys.”
Malone has yet to personally meet with arguably the Kings’ most gifted player. So far, Malone has only exchanged messages with point guard Isaiah Thomas and sixth man Marcus Thornton, who he coached for half a season in New Orleans.
But when he does touch base with Cousins, Malone says he won’t go into their meeting with any “preconceived notions”. His hope is to give Cousins along with the rest of the Kings’ roster a clear vision for what he hopes this team can be.
“He could be, he should be the cornerstone of this franchise for years to come,” said Malone, whose 12 years of assistant coaching experience includes stops in New York, Cleveland and Golden State. “That’s my hope. But obviously, once when we sit down and speak and we get a better feel for who he is and who I am, we’ll see where that relationship goes. But I’m very much looking forward to meeting with him.”
Like Malone, Ranadivé understands Cousins’ value to this franchise. After the sale of the team was officially completed, Ranadivé says the first call he made was to the Kings young big man. In that conversation, he shared some of his vision with Cousins.
“I said my friend (Apple founder) Steve Jobs liked to say ‘let’s put a dent in the universe’ and DeMarcus, ‘let’s do something big’,” Ranadivé said at today’s afternoon press conference. “He said, ‘I liked the sound of that’.”
It’s no secret that Ranadivé has plans of spreading the Kings’ brand across the globe. The Kings majority owner envisions making the franchise a household name in his native country of India, the second-most populous nation in the world. Ranadivé wants Cousins to be a part that expansion.
“I’d like nothing better than a billion Indians to know who DeMarcus Cousins is,” Ranadivé said. “He is, as the coach has said, one of the most talented big men out there. He’s a tremendous athlete and I’ve seen how the coach has worked with other people and I have no doubt that it’s going to be a big plus for DeMarcus.”
Malone and Ranadivé have their work cut out for them. They both know that taking the Kings from the Western Conference cellar to NBA championship contender is not going to be easy. But, they also know they have a better chance of succeeding if DeMarcus Cousins is on their side.
“If I can give them just a vision and get them to buy in and believe and accept coaching,” Malone said. “Whether it’s DeMarcus or anybody, I think that’ll be the first step in turning this program around.”
Warriors connection played role in Malone’s hiring
This was not the first summer Mike Malone was considered a hot commodity on the NBA coaching market. Two years ago, the Kings new head coach was seriously considered by the Golden State Warriors, his former employer, to run their ship in the bay area.
This year, the demand was no different as Malone was rumored for job openings with the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Clippers. But when it came time to deciding his future, choosing Sacramento was a “no brainer”.
Malone cites his connection with the Kings new owner Vivek Ranadivé as one of the major factors in coming to the capital city. Ranadivé has been vice-chairman of the Warriors under majority owner Joe Lacob for the past three seasons.
“It wasn’t just an interview,” Malone said of his meeting and talks with Ranadivé. “It was a connection. It was a belief in me and it was a job offer at the end of the day.”
The decision to hire Malone has come before the Kings have settled on a successor for Geoff Petrie. Ranadivé is aware that picking a coach before hiring a general manager is a bit unorthodox. But Ranadivé made a point of sharing that he is a “deliberate thinker” and not one who makes brash choices without careful consideration.
“This was not a case where I was 90 or 99 percent sure that I had the best person,” Ranadivé said of hiring Malone. “I was a 100 percent sure that I had the absolute best person.”
Those close to the Kings new head coach suggest that Ranadivé’s unwavering support and belief made Malone’s choice easy. After consulting with a number of different experts on the matter, Ranadivé had no doubt that Malone would be the right man to lead the Kings back to respectability.
“Ownership is such a big part of having success in the NBA,” said Malone, who also claimed that he took no other offers seriously because of Ranadivé. “And we have the best ownership group, I feel, in the NBA now. You couple that with the great area to live for me and my family and great fans…it was a no brainer from my standpoint.”
- Before Malone was formally introduced, the new Kings coach was already at work this afternoon. The Kings worked out six prospects, highlighted by talented French center Rudy Gobert. The workout was conducted by outgoing basketball president Geoff Petrie and his staff, but they worked cooperatively with the new regime. Notable members present at today’s workout included Ranadivé’s partners Mark Mastrov and John Kehriotis, Jerry Reynolds, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Mike Petrie, Wayne Cooper and current Kings assistants Alex English, Jim Eyen and Bobby Jackson.
- Malone has yet to make any formal hires to his staff, but expects his father Brendan to join him. He plans on meeting individually tomorrow with the remaining members of Keith Smart‘s coaching staff to decide on their futures. Malone expects to make formal announcements on his staff within the next few weeks.