It has been a whirlwind year for the Kings, but at long last, it looks like the franchise has found some stability. The tug of war between Sacramento and Seattle is through and the Kings are staying put in California's capital behind recently-minted owner Vivek Ranadive. There are some major changes on the floor, too, with star Tyreke Evans departing for New Orleans and Michael Malone replacing Keith Smart as head coach. Malone took some time to sit down with Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee to discuss his new challenge. Here's a look at some of the highlights..
When the sale to the Ranadive-led group was finalized, did you think you had a chance at the job?
It's funny, but I remember my father telling me, "You are always working for your next job. Somebody is always watching." And unbeknownst to me, here is Vivek these past two years, watching me at practices, watching me at games. But really, it's not like we were talking on the phone all the time. The most time we ever spent together was on draft night (2012). We were sitting in the war room in Oakland, and we talked for a while. We saw things in a very similar way, and we created a bond, a relationship that night, that led to this.
You were more involved with the NBA draft and recent offseason moves than most head coaches. Do you expect to maintain that degree of input?
You've heard Vivek say that a lot of coaches aren't that involved, but that they need to be involved because they're the guys who have to coach. The first couple weeks – and Geoff Petrie and his staff were terrific in a very uncomfortable situation – we didn't have a GM at the time. I felt like I was head coach and GM. So I was very, very happy when we hired Pete [D'Alessandro]. He came in immediately and was asking: "Who did you like during the workout? What do you think?" We had constant communication on the draft and free agency.
How well did you know D'Alessandro before he was hired?
Not much. I had heard about him, being another New York guy. And I heard a lot of good things about him when he was at Golden State and Denver. But that was it. The neat thing about Pete for me … a lot of guys probably look at this job a little differently, because I was hired before the GM, but he was fine with that.
People were talking quite a bit about the head coach being hired before the GM. Was that awkward for you?
The reality is some people would be turned off by that. Is it the norm? No. But it's not like it never happens. The thing I love about Pete … there's no egos here because at the end of the day it's going to be us. We get the job done or we don't. We both know we need each other to get this thing turned around. And we have an owner who believes in us and is giving us everything we need to succeed. If we don't have that, we have no chance.
So what is your approach? Do you have a two-year plan? A five-year plan?
This is going to be a process. We have to change the culture, establish an identity, and while we'll try to win every night, we don't want to skip steps. We don't want short-term success. I'm not sure what year we get into our new arena, but by that year, we want to be a playoff team, and not to just be competing in the playoffs. We've talked about that. We know we have to have patience to do it right. Are our young guys getting better? Are we defending? Gang- rebounding? Running with discipline? The only thing I promised Vivek is that we will no longer be the worst defensive team in the league. So if we do that and change our culture, that will result in more wins and a better product.