The Geoff Petrie era with the Sacramento Kings has run its course. What started as a fruitful relationship for the first decade of his tenure with the team has turned sour in recent years. So much so, that it's now time for the franchise to go in a different direction.
Ditching Petrie, or "dishing Petrie", is a necessary step for the Kings at this point. But it's one that shouldn't be taken lightly. For one, and most importantly, this is someone's livelihood we're talking about. Surely Petrie's bank account is in much better shape than mine or the vast majority of people out there.
Set that aside, though, because this isn't all about money. It's about the emotional toll and dedication he's given to the organization. For that, he deserves a better fate than to be unceremoniously let go. Unfortunately, though, he hasn't earned a better fate given the team's lackluster performance over the past six-plus seasons.
It's also a serious decision considering Petrie's successes with the Kings, and lest we forget that there are many. First and foremost, he's presided over the most prosperous era in Sacramento Kings history—the 11-year run from 1995-96 through 2005-06 that saw the franchise qualify for the playoffs nine times, including eight consecutive years from 1998-99 to 2005-06.
During that time, Petrie twice earned the NBA's Executive of the Year award (1998-99 and 2000-01) which recognized him as the top front-office member in the league.
He also pulled off many successful drafts, trades and free-agent signings during the organization's unprecedented run of success.
Petrie presided over drafts that saw the Kings find diamonds in the rough in Peja Stojakovic (No. 14 pick in the 1996 draft), Hedo Turkoglu (No. 16 pick in the 2000 draft), Gerald Wallace (No. 25 pick in the 2001 draft) and Kevin Martin (No. 26 pick in the 2004 draft).
He orchestrated trades that netted the Kings Chris Webber, Brad Miller, Mike Bibby and Doug Christie, who were all parts of the organization's successful years.
Maybe most impressive was his ability to find under-the-radar free agents, which is almost a necessity given how undesirable Sacramento seems to be as a free-agent destination. He was able to sign Vlade Divac, Bobby Jackson, Scot Pollard and Jim Jackson. None of those players were stars (although Divac did make one All-Star team with the Kings), but they were all integral pieces on championship-caliber teams.
Since then, however, the organization has fallen on hard times. Now, not all of this is on Petrie, but as the architect of the team, he has to take the ultimate responsibility for it.
His teams have missed the playoffs for six consecutive seasons, and even the most optimistic of Kings fans are aware that streak will get to seven, given the team's subpar start to the 2012-13 season.
Over that six-plus year span, the Kings have had five different coaches. First it was Eric Musselman for one season. Reggie Theus ran the team for one-plus season. Interim head coach Kenny Natt only lasted part of the 2008-09 season. He gave way to Paul Westphal, who coached the team for two-plus seasons. And finally, we're at Keith Smart, who has been there for one-plus season after taking over after Westphal's ouster early in the 2011-12 campaign.
Whether or not those hires are totally on Petrie or ownership is unknown. But again, as the head of basketball operations, Petrie is ultimately responsible for the hires.
Petrie's also failed to turn the team around through the draft, despite numerous lottery picks.
Spencer Hawes, the No. 10 pick in the 2007 draft, has been a disappointment. Picked two slots later by the Philadelphia 76ers was Thaddeus Young, who would have been a better option.
Jason Thompson was selected 12th in the 2008 draft. Other options still available at the time were Roy Hibbert (No. 17), JaVale McGee (No. 18) and Ryan Anderson (No. 21).
The Tyreke Evans pick isn't totally Petrie's fault. Evans proved during his rookie campaign that he was worthy of the No. 4 pick. Since then, Evans hasn't developed much, and even though he's showing signs of progression this season, he's dealing with an injury that's preventing him from getting on the court. Other options would have been Ricky Rubio, Steph Curry and Ty Lawson.
DeMarcus Cousins was selected fifth overall in the 2010 draft. On talent alone, DMC has been a more than worthy selection. His lack of maturity, however, has prevented him from capitalizing on his talents. How much of that is Petrie's fault is up for debate.
Selections from the 2011 and 2012 drafts include Jimmer Fredette, Isaiah Thomas, Tyler Honeycutt and Thomas Robinson.
Fredette underwhelmed in his rookie campaign but seems to have turned it around this season, despite inconsistent playing time. Isaiah Thomas was an excellent selection for the last pick in the 2011 draft. Tyler Honeycutt has been on the NBA-NBDL shuttle and looks par for the course for a second-round pick. Thomas Robinson has shown flashes at times this season but looks lost at others.
Overall, it's too early in their careers to make any definitive determinations about the selections, other than to say they haven't impacted the organization as much as one would hope.
His recent free-agent signings and trades haven't netted much either. Beno Udrih wasn't worth the contract he signed. Travis Outlaw has been terrible. Aaron Brooks has been up-and-down for much of the season. His trades for J.J. Hickson, Carl Landry and Shelden Williams also didn't pan out.
Due to these underachieving draft picks, lackluster free-agent signings and underwhelming trades, Petrie has failed to build a cohesive and talented roster. On top of that, he's failed to bring in an effective coach to lead it.
You could argue that ownership doesn't make Petrie's job any easier on him, especially with the uncertainty surrounding the team's future and a payroll that has ranked near the bottom of the league in recent seasons. And yes, that's all true.
The thing is those issues have only come up in the last few years; Petrie's Kings have been terrible for more than six seasons now. Furthermore, it's not like this is a team that's on the rise. It'd be one thing if the Kings were making strides. If anything, they've regressed.
You could blame it on coaching. There are two problems with that line of thinking, however. For one, Petrie's presided over five different coaches in six years and none of them have been the answer so far.
Secondly, even the best coach is only as good as the talent surrounding him. For as great as Phil Jackson was, it sure didn't hurt having MJ and Pippen, Shaq and Kobe and, Kobe and Gasol to build around. Seeing as how Petrie is responsible for assembling the roster, it's his fault if the coaches don't have enough talent to win, which they don't.
Sure, maybe the Kings would be better with a coach other than Keith Smart; they still wouldn't be a championship contender or a playoff team. That's Petrie's fault.
You could blame it on players like Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins for not taking the necessary steps to improve their games. Again, though, Petrie is the one that drafted them.
Ultimately, you don't win two NBA Executive of the Year awards without knowing how to evaluate talent. You don't make the playoffs nine times in 11 years if you don't know what you're doing. But even with those accomplishments, you don't deserve to keep your job if the team you're responsible for fails to make any progress for six-plus seasons.
Hiring Geoff Petrie back in 1994 is probably the best move the Sacramento Kings have ever made. But as they say, all good things must come to an end, and the Kings haven't been a "good thing" in years.
It's time for the organization to go in a different direction.
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