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By Jim Brighters, NBA Editor - Archive - Email
Ranadive may be a mad genius
Vivek Ranadive Vivek Ranadive is a man who won't settle for anything but the best.
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Vivek Ranadive is widely credited with being one of the principal reasons the Kings still reign in Sacramento.

His ownership exhilarated a new fanbase and he helped expel the increasingly aloof Maloof brothers from the hierarchy of the Kings.

Ranadive's methods have been strange to say the least. Publicly, the Kings' owner has tinkered with the idea of having his team play 4-on-5 on the defensive end with an offensive cherry-picker hanging back.

The Kings' D-League affiliate, the Reno Bighorns, average a staggering 138.5 ppg. Sure, they allow 136.3 ppg, but they're 6-5.

The latest strangeness around Ranadive and the Kings was the abrupt dismissal of head coach Mike Malone earlier in the week. The Kings are 11-14, but 2-9 since DeMarcus Cousins left the lineup. The first record is very respectable in the brutal Western Conference and the second record is expected when the best player is unavailable.

Ranadive hired Malone before he hired his GM, Pete D'Alessandro, a move Ranadive acknowledged was out of order.

"I know it was unconventional to get the coach before we got the GM," Ranadive conceded in an interview with Sacramento's News10. "I consulted some of the experts in the game. They said Malone was the right guy and we should get him as soon as we could ... Malone was exactly what the doctor ordered."

How could Malone be "exactly what the doctor ordered," then be unemployed just a season and 24 games later?

"Everything was literally and figuratively falling apart," Ranadive explained to News10. "There was chaos, even anarchy in the locker room. The draft was weeks away. We needed to get a coach in place who would restore order."

Malone must have done that. In all my years watching the NBA, let alone covering it, I never witnessed a coach publicly call out his team to the media like Malone did. He wouldn't throw guys under the bus, he'd do that, back them over with the bus, then repeat.

But, as Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported, Malone softened a bit. Wojnarowski reported that Malone traveled to visit Cousins and Rudy Gay while they were on Team USA for the FIBA World Cup this summer. Wojnarowski even went as far as to say Malone was a big reason for Gay extending his contract in Sacramento and that Malone was getting through to Cousins, who could, at times, be a little difficult.

So why then, fire the team's coach, a coach who was hired without approval of either D'Allesandro, or Ranadive's closest advisor, Chris Mullin, this early while the team is progressing and while the team's best player has VIRAL MENINGITIS?

"The Western Conference is arguably the most competitive that it has ever been," Ranadive explained. "It's a little like the hi-tech business. Just because you invent the iphone, doesn't mean you can rest on your laurels. Just because you win 50 games, you can't be satisfied with the status quo.

"We live in a time when good enough, isn't. We need to take this to the next level. We needed to pivot so that we move from a great defensive orientation to having both defense and offense. Move from an isolation offense to a more free-flowing offense. Move from a rules-based culture which was important when there was chaos, to more of a value-based culture so you can have more of a read-and-respond offense."

Wow, that's interesting, equating a value-based culture to a fluid NBA offense. It's certainly not owner speak. That's a detailed, thought-out offering from someone who takes his job very seriously.

Ranadive also said that the D'Alessandro/Mullin combination made the final call, but Ranadive's explanation was candid and very much forward-thinking.

Clearly, offense is a big part of the problem Ranadive had with Malone. Owners meddling in sports matters is older than fire. Does Ranadive understand what he has in Cousins? A dominant, two-way big man who can shoot and pass, all while 24 years of age is a unique commodity. Does he want to flush Cousins' impact in the future for the love of offense?

Maybe he does, but Ranadive is a man who won't settle for anything but the best. Mark Cuban is a Maverick in team name and in personality. He did things oddly it seemed, and he's always had a hand in things. Now, Cuban is an elite, shrewd owner who has a championship ring and one of the most consistently strong teams every season.

Cuban also backed off and let the basketball people run things when needs be. Wojnarowski said Ranadive really wanted Detroit's Josh Smith and told other owners Malone didn't, yet still pursued him. That's too meddlesome and he'll need to curb that kind of behavior.

But Ranadive isn't willing to settle. Doesn't that pinpoint exactly what a fanbase should look for in an owner? Progress is fine, but when that progression plateaus, he'll find the next guy for the next level. Ranadive used Malone to balance his roster out mentally, then chucked him. It's like when Bane snapped that dude's neck who provided money and infrastructure, although the comparison is not exactly flawless.

Ranadive's methods are goofy, but his mind is where it should be.

There will still be issues to flesh out for Ranadive going forward.

Will any worthwhile coach want to work for an owner who fires coaches when the best player is away? Will any worthwhile coach want to work for an owner who fires coaches a little over 100 games into his tenure? Will any worthwhile coach want to work for an owner who wants to employ a 4-on-5 strategy?

Ty Corbin is not the answer. He didn't do anything of note with the Utah Jazz and he won't in Sacramento. George Karl's name was pumped up early based on the fact he has a working relationship with D'Alessandro, but that's already appeared to fizzle.

Sam Amick of USA Today reported that Mullin, D'Alessandro and Cousins met with Mark Jackson after he called the game for ESPN Tuesday night. That would be fun - taking the most recent genius who butted heads with ownership and pair him with a guy who wants his coach to use lessons from his days coaching his daughter's youth team.

If this episode proved anything else, it's that Ranadive isn't in this to just be owner and deposit checks. He wants to win and his desire to do so borders on impatience. Whoever the long-term solution is in Sacramento, be it Jackson, Karl or Mullin, better be on guard.

Ranadive is doing things his way based on his background in the business and technology world. It's his right. He may have some trouble getting coaches to trust him for now, but his honesty and approach is refreshing. Improvement is the only acceptable outcome.

Did he have a cherry-picker in software development?

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