NBA Champion Matt Barnes Rocks the Truth About the Sorry State of the Sacramento Kings

In 2013, Vivek Ranadivé was the savior in California’s capital city. The Maloof brothers had the Sacramento Kings up for sale, and it appeared all but done that the Kings were moving to Seattle. But Ranadivé, with assists from the NBA and then-Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, swooped in and bought the Kings. He pledged to keep them in Sacramento and finagled a deal with the city council for a new arena in the process.

But that’s the thing about fairy tales. They’re just that — tales. The sad reality for the Kings is that Ranadivé has been a disaster as an owner. The Maloofs at least brought a winner to the city for a short time before the real estate market bottomed out in 2008, and they began to cut corners with the franchise. Ranadivé might as well be named ranaground for what he’s done to the Kings since he took over eight years ago.

The Sacramento Kings were royalty in the city

When the Kansas City Kings decided to move to Sacramento in 1985, the city welcomed them with open arms. Fans flocked to a temporary arena every night to see a team that lost more often than won. Through the questionable hires of Bill Russell as a coach and later as general manager, the fans came.

Something funny happened in the late 1990s. Rick Adelman, after two years with the equally woeful Golden State Warriors, came to Sacramento. For eight seasons, the Kings were winners on the scoreboard. During Adelman’s tenure. Sacramento won 63% of its regular-season games and made a run to the Western Conference Finals in 2002, a series many to this day believe was stolen from the Kings.

But the levers general manager Geoff Petrie pulled started to misfire. The team broke apart; Adelman resigned after the 2005–06 season. That was the last year the Kings made the playoffs. It’s also the last time the franchise won more games than it lost.

Petrie left after Ranadivé bought the club. Pete D’Alessandro, Vlade Divac, and (briefly) Joe Dumars ran the basketball operations with little to no success. Monte McNair has been on the job since September 2020, and nothing has changed.

Meanwhile, coaches have rolled in and out of town like a special at a big-box discount store: Eric Musselman, Reggie Theus, Kenny Natt, Paul Westphal, Keith Smart, Mike Malone, Tyrone Corbin, George Karl, Dave Joerger, Luke Walton. Now Alvin Gentry is keeping the seat warm for whoever is next in the long line of mediocrity at best.

Analyst Matt Barnes crushed the Sacramento Kings organization, and he’s right

NBC Sports California analyst Matt Barnes unloaded on the team after the Sacramento Kings lost to the woefully short-handed Philadelphia 76ers in Gentry’s first game as interim head coach.

“It’s always easy to point the blame at the coach,” Barnes said. “There’s a lot of responsibility on the players, but this team hasn’t been good in a long time. I think small-market teams have to do a few different things to stay relevant in this league. One is drafting well. And the Kings haven’t necessarily drafted well.”

Then Barnes got to the heart of the problems. It’s the organization:

“You look at Oklahoma City; they’re a small-market team too; they don’t miss in the draft. They hit in the draft, and they’re able to develop their talent. And if you happen to miss in the draft, you have to make a move. They’ve been sitting on Marvin Bagley. They have to trade him and get some assets if they’re not going to play him.

“Most of all, you have to have a foundation and an identity. And I don’t think this team has that yet.”

Matt Barnes

That comes back to Ranadivé. He had the right coach in Malone, who has done wonders since taking over the Denver Nuggets. The Kings fired him midway through his second season. Never mind that the roster he had wasn’t competitive; the coach had to go. Sacramento went to Joerger. He was fired after the team’s best season since Adelman quit.

The Kings have loyal fans and an owner that doesn’t respect them

Vivek Ranadivé promised big things after gaining control of the Sacramento Kings in 2013. If anything, he's made a bad situation worse.
Vivek Ranadivé promised big things after gaining control of the Sacramento Kings in 2013. If anything, he’s made a bad situation worse. | Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The Sacramento Kings are the only game in town. But if the organization is going to be one in name only, it doesn’t matter who the general manager is. The coach is an afterthought.

Ranadivé won’t get out of his own way. A successful tech consultant, he made his fortune in that industry. He’s not a basketball guy.

And he has a history since purchasing the Kings of making bad hiring decisions. Then he undercuts the basketball people. Divac lost patience with Malone, who D’Alessandro had hired. Ranadivé’s impatience fueled Divac’s decision. The same thing happened to Joerger a few years later.

The blame for eight winning seasons in 36 years doesn’t fall on Ranadivé. But none in the eight seasons since he assumed control does. It’s a lather, rinse, repeat cycle of doom in Sacramento. Players come in hungry and excited. They leave beaten and broken, hardly able to contain their glee at putting the city in the rearview mirror.

Under Ranadivé, the Sacramento Kings aren’t an organization. At best, they’re a halfway house. The cast changes so rapidly — from the front office to the coach’s office to roster — that the idea of anything cohesive growing is a myth. Sacramento deserves better than Ranadivé. Unfortunately, the devoted fans there are stuck with him for worse or for even worse still. Better isn’t even on the horizon.

Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.

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