Which Front Office Legend Should Usher in NBA's Rebirth in Seattle?
The Sacramento Kings just got a whole lot more relevant, but now they're going to be tasked with staying relevant as the Seattle Supersonics.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, a deal has been agreed upon that will put the Kings franchise in the hands of a Seattle-based group that intends to relocate them to Seattle:
With the finalization of the Sacramento Kings' sale to a Seattle-based ownership group, the NBA's relocation committee will overwhelmingly ratify the franchise's move to Seattle for the 2013-14 season, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.
The new ownership group, led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer, will purchase 65 percent of the Kings at a franchise valuation of $525 million. The new owners will file for relocation to Seattle before the March 1 deadline, sources told Yahoo! Sports.
The Seattle group's plan is to play the next two seasons in KeyArena before moving into a new $500 million arena in downtown Seattle in 2015, sources said.
The new Seattle owners will bring back the franchise's longtime Sonics name and colors.
Most would be lying if they said they weren't ecstatic that the fate of the organization was no longer the Maloofs' responsibility. But if I ignored the the heartbreak behind unceremoniously ripping the team from a loyal Sacramento fanbase, I'd personally be lying.
That said, being Seattle-bound is about to become a reality. Which leaves us to pose the question: What's next?
The rebirth of the Sonics isn't going to be easy. Seattle's fanbase remains devoted and is undoubtedly enthralled at the prospect of the NBA's return. But now, the organization-to-be needs to make sure they don't blow their opportunity.
Simply put, Seattle needs to do what Sacramento has been unable to—build a winner.
And that starts in the front office. Before fiddling with the roster or making any coaching changes, there must be someone in place who is worthy of making such decisions.
Enter the high-profile list of names the organization is targeting to run its franchise.
Per Wojnarowski, two of the candidates include former Indiana Pacers President Larry Bird and current San Antonio Spurs General Manager R.C. Buford:
The new Seattle NBA ownership group has begun discussing possible candidates to run its franchise and has deliberated whether to target San Antonio Spurs general manager R.C. Buford and former Indiana Pacers president Larry Bird, sources told Yahoo! Sports.
The ownership group led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer has finalized an agreement to purchase the Sacramento Kings and plans to move the team to Seattle for the 2013-14 season. The pending owners want to completely redo the franchise's basketball infrastructure, sources told Yahoo! Sports.The Seattle group believes it will need to completely rebuild the franchise, and that means hiring an executive with a strong history of drafting, player evaluation and organization building.
Kings GM Geoff Petrie, who is in the final year of his contract, will not be retained, sources said. Petrie is expected to retire at season's end, league sources said.
Bird and Buford are two equally interesting and capable candidates to say the least.
Though Buford, in particular, will prove to be an extremely difficult get for Seattle. He's sitting pretty with a perennial contender in the Spurs and I'm not sure there's anything any outside team could offer that would make him leave Gregg Popovich's side.
Still, Buford makes plenty of sense from a business perspective. He's helped an aging Spurs team remain more than relevant and has assisted in the assembly of four championships, three of which came with him at the general manager helm.
As Wojnarowski writes, anything Seattle would do must exceed beyond "extraordinary"—like an equity stake—if they are to poach Buford. And realistically, I don't think even that would be enough. Would you want to leave one of the most successful franchises in all of basketball for a startup gig?
I didn't think so.
Bird, on the other hand, is a more intriguing option because of his availability.
While in Indiana, Bird won the NBA Executive of the Year award in 2011. He's responsible for bringing in the likes Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert and Paul George, a trio of many decisions that helped rejuvenate the Pacers.
Though Bird stepped away from the Indiana organization last year for health reasons, Wojnarowski notes that he did so with the intention of returning one day. But with Kevin Pritchard and Donnie Walsh currently running the show for the Pacers, a return to Indiana seems pointless. Thus quite unlikely.
Given his experience, the former NBA great would certainly be a stellar fit—especially come draft day.
As justifiable, obtainable and logical a choice as Bird may be, though, he's not the ideal fit. Not if Phil Jackson is willing to come aboard the Sonics train.
Per Peter Vecsey (formerly of the New York Post), the 11-time coaching champion is a "living lock" to join the Seattle organization.
Source says almost living lock Phil Jackson will become front office face of Seattle-bound Kings' franchise. Won't coach. Will mentor choice— Peter Vecsey (@PeterVecsey1) January 21, 2013
I remain ever skeptical about the "living lock" part of it all, but cannot fault the team's supposed interest. How could I?
Not only is Jackson no stranger to winning, but he's pining for a front office spot. A future spot among the Los Angeles Lakers brass was apparently one of the stipulations he attached to the sideline return that never was.
No, Jackson has never been fond of taking over a franchise in flux, but he wouldn't be coaching this one. He'd be building it from the ground up. The Sonics would be a direct representation of his vision.
But before you start preparing to hang the 2013-14 championship banner in Key Arena, it would be remiss if you don't admit this could prove to be a tall order.
Granted, Jackson should be open to the idea, but will he want a stake in the team like he did when it came to the Lakers? Plus, will Seattle provide him with the financial means necessary to actualize his perception of success?
And, though I feel slightly stupid as I pen this, does enlivening a dormant franchise fit into his wedding plans?
All this, and more, is going to factor into Jackson's decision and Seattle's ability to make him a front office fixture. Yet none of it should be a deterrent.
Who should become the front office face for Seattle?
Painstaking though it may be for Sacramento fans to admit, distancing themselves from the recent history and subsequent failure of the Kings franchise is the route to travel here. What better way to do that than by bringing in Jackson, losing's Kryptonite?
Bird and Buford may have the experience and a little hardware of their own, but Jackson has even more hardware, a better working knowledge of the game and a thirst to prove himself. His (probable) desire to stick it to the Lakers is merely a bonus.
Would Jackson's journey to Seattle be a difficult one?
Maybe, but maybe not.
Whatever the cost of doing business with Jackson, though, Seattle must pay it. His sheer presence implies that better days—even better than the team's return to Seattle—are on the horizon. His name is synonymous with winning, success and championships.
Thus, the eventual Sonics must do what the Lakers couldn't—allow Phil Jackson to become an integral part of their immediate future.
*All stats and information in this article are accurate as of January 21, 2013.
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