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Kings mailbag: McNair named GM, but many questions linger

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The Kings pulled the trigger on a new head of basketball operations on Thursday when they hired General Manager Monte McNair to take over the organization.

It’s a good hire for Sacramento, but there still are plenty of questions fans have moving forward. We'll use our first attempt at a Kings mail bag for NBA Sports California to attempt to answer some of those questions.

From Zachary Martinez via email:

I was just wondering why you think there are so many people freaking out over the hire already? Seems like McNair has done nothing but move up since he was hired and there is really nothing to hate on. Do you think it is more because of Vivek, or the fans just being used to being let down? Furthermore, in your opinion is it just the vocal minority that is speaking out or, again, does it have to do with the fan base being used to failure?

Well Zach, fans in Sacramento are passionate and frustrated after missing the playoffs for 14 consecutive seasons. In my experience, Kings fans also have a tendency to fall in love with a specific player or idea, be it in the draft or free agency or potential coaching hire, and when they don’t get that person, they have an emotional response. McNair seems to be caught in that cycle.

Kings fans read the reports that Minnesota Timberwolves vice president Sachin Gupta was the favorite for the position. When he didn’t get the job, it triggered a response. The decision to retain Joe Dumars and give him a new title also has people fired up.

 

The vocal minority is very vocal on social channels in Sacramento. Overall, the fanbase will accept McNair with open arms. He’s a very bright executive from a strong organization that is very well respected around the league. Now he is a Sacramento King and the fans usually embrace their own.

There is a lot to take in here Redondo Phil. Before I answer anything about Gupta or Pete D'Alessandro, I want to take on the last line - “Was McNair simply the best of dwindling choices?”

McNair has spent the last 13 years working his way up through one of the most progressive front offices in the NBA. He’s had a variety of roles and was Daryl Morey’s assistant GM in Houston for the last two seasons. The Rockets routinely lose front office personnel to teams looking for a new direction and Morey’s executive tree sprawls all over the league. In short, this isn’t “the best of dwindling choices,” it’s just not someone with the notoriety of a former player or someone who has run a team in the past.

As far as Gupta, I had a conversation with him on Thursday and he had nothing but very nice things to say about the Kings, the process of interviewing and what he thought about the job. He also raved about McNair, who he worked with during their time together in Houston from 2007-12.

In the end, McNair got the job and Gupta is very excited to see how his friend does with his own team. He also said that despite reading media reports, he hadn’t been approached to work with McNair in Sacramento.

Lastly, it’s too early to know how McNair will react to his new position and how he will define himself as an executive until he is in the role for a year or two. Kings fans should hope that his tenure is nothing like that of D’Alessandro’s, but it should also be noted that the franchise was different then. That was Vivek Ranadivé’s first front office hire and hopefully he’s learned a lot in the seven years since then. A lot of the chaos from D’Alessandro tenure can be placed on the overall inexperience of everyone involved and he's done just fine with the Nuggets and Magic in his post Kings career. McNair should start with a clean slate and not draw comparisons to others until it’s warranted.

He has been brought up through a system where analytics are valued highly and his specialty is analytics, but this quote from Morey when McNair was promoted to assistant GM speaks volumes to what he brings to the table:

“Monte has been absolutely critical to the success of the Rockets over his long tenure. His unique combination of analytical skills and ability to work with our coaching staff was a key driver in our record-breaking season last year."

 

Analytics is a tool. One of many when running an NBA franchise. The Kings have a robust analytics department, but how that information is used is unknown. If McNair can work with his staff and make analytics digestible, then that is a huge plus.

As for why he was chosen over others, that seems to be a personal preference situation. He likely interviewed well and possibly found common ground with the Kings’ brass. In the end, they chose him as someone they want to work with moving forward.

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From Lou Phong via email:

1) What made the Kings just key in on the 6 guys mentioned in coaching search? And why not expand the GM search past 6?

2) Is Luke Walton 100 percent safe? With the hire of McNair was that a stipulation told to the candidates that the coach would stay on if hired?

3) What happens with scouting Dept, analytics and what’s next for Monte. I assume expand and build on his FO team and dig in on draft and Free agency? Or get to know players and coaching staff?

4. Aneel Ranadivé being part of the interview process, why or what led to this? And does he have any aspirations of being part of b-ball ops someday?

The Kings had conversations with more than just six candidates over the last month. This was just the group that they moved forward with to the request phase. The team also had turned the search over to Mike Forde of Sportsology who delivered a list of names based on the team's wants.

Before the hiring of McNair, sources confirmed to NBC Sports California that Walton’s job was safe heading into next season. That should still be the case, although the entire situation is fluid in Sacramento with a new head of basketball ops coming in. We will know more on this when McNair addresses the media on Wednesday and potentially before.

As far as the scouting and analytics department, McNair is cleared to hire his own staff. What that means for the people currently employed is unknown. There will likely be an interview process with the folks as McNair settles into the job over the coming weeks. It should be noted that assistant GM Ken Catanella was retained by the Kings to offer McNair support. 

Lastly, Aneel Ranadivé is Vivek’s oldest son and he’s part of the ownership group’s executive board. Whether he has aspirations on being part of basketball ops in the future is unknown, but he is a trusted voice for his father in what amounts to a huge decision for the franchise.

From Matt Hall via email:

 

If part of Joe Dumars' role is basketball strategy as well as other business strategies, will he be working with Monte on the basketball side? I don’t understand how that will work if Dumars is reporting directly to Vivek.

Dumars clearly is going to work with McNair in some fashion, although both will report to Ranadivé, not to each other. Still confused?

According to the team’s press release, “In this role, McNair will be responsible for all decisions made in the Kings basketball operations department and serve as the team’s top basketball executive reporting to the owner and chairman.”

We are going to have to wait to see how this works out. Dumars clearly will have a voice in the room, but it should be more as a sounding board and advisory position. McNair should have the final say in basketball related decisions.

Dumars took the Pistons to six straight Eastern Conference Finals and won a championship as an executive. Hopefully his presence is a positive for McNair, who is getting his first chance to run an organization as a No. 1.