Posted 06 November 2006 - 07:35 AM
Interview with Joe Maloof
Ailene Voisin: Hopes high for playoffs, team's future
By Ailene Voisin - Bee Sports Columnist
Published 12:00 am PST Monday, November 6, 2006
On the eve of the Kings' home opener, team co-owner Joe Maloof discussed a variety of matters, including first-year Sacramento coach Eric Musselman, the local backlash from a Carl's Jr. commercial and, anticipating that Measures Q and R will be overwhelmingly defeated, the future of the arena and the Kings.
Q: Let's start with the fun stuff. Is there enough talent here to reach the playoffs?
A: We made them last year, and I think we can do it again this year if we get the same kind of leadership we need from Mike Bibby and Ron Artest. And you have to like what you're seeing from Kevin Martin. He's really stepping up. Now we need some of the other young guys to do the same thing: Ronnie Price, Francisco García. From what we've seen so far, even though we lost two of those games (on the season-opening road trip), the defense is better, guys are hustling and not giving up. We just haven't been able to score, but I'm sure Eric is working on that.
Q: What are your initial impressions of your new coach?
A: I love his passion, and the fact he is so prepared and takes everything so seriously. When we interviewed him for the job, it was real obvious that he's a confident young man. He makes sure you know he's been around basketball his whole life. When he was 7, 8, 9, he was talking basketball instead of watching "The Flintstones."
Q: What were you and Gavin doing at that age?
A: (Laughs) Watching "The Flintstones."
Q: Any second thoughts about making the coaching change at the end of last season?
A: No, no. We feel really good about that. Rick (Adelman) did a great job for us, but it was definitely time for a change. The whole attitude within the organization is more positive. Everybody feels rejuvenated. The new basketball staff is looking at the franchise as a whole, trying to get along with the business part. Sometimes the basketball and business sides butt heads. But the new guys actually showed interest in the Monarchs, too. All of us have to do a better job promoting our (female) athletes -- maybe get the women in some of those (laughs) Carl's Jr. commercials.
Q: Since you brought it up ...
A: Actually, that all came about when I was living in my smaller house here. There was a Carl's Jr. right around the corner. I used to eat there once, maybe twice a day, and at one of our games against the Lakers, I was introduced to the president of the company. I told him how much Gavin and I love his food. I was rattling off the entire menu. So he calls me later and says: "I've got an idea. How about if I get a couple of guys like you, that are still kind of blue-collar and like to eat burgers, and we do an ad?' I tried to take the billionaire (stuff) out of there, but they said no, it was part of the commercial.
Q: Didn't you realize it doesn't look particularly good for four billionaire bachelors to be swigging expensive wine while you're asking voters to help subsidize a downtown arena?
A: In Sacramento we've been getting killed. I'm kind of surprised because the rest of the country thinks it's pretty funny. The people who don't want an arena made a big issue out of it. But the thing is, this is exactly who we are. We ride around in limousines, but we eat hamburgers. We weren't any different when we first moved here, and everybody thought we were great.
Q: So why did you stop hanging around town? These past two years, you basically withdrew from the very patrons you are supposed to be cultivating.
A: I know it's part of the game, but I just got tired of getting beat up all the time in the newspaper and on the radio. For some reason, no one wanted to hear our point of view. We could never get our points across. People don't want their taxes raised, and I understand that. I don't blame them. But it got nasty, and it got personal, and I'll admit it, that kind of stuff really got to me.
Q: Getting back to the ill-fated ballot measures, you basically sabotaged your own campaign by revealing at the inaugural news conference that a final agreement had not been reached.
A: To do anything else would have been dishonest. How do you promise the voters that you're going to be here for 30 years, and then you can't make a deal for the downtown arena because the city and developer don't have a deal, and voters say they voted for it because they think it's going there, and it winds up back out at Arco? I said I thought it would be great for the city, but we couldn't guarantee it. The city/county and developer did not have a deal.
Q: Regardless, the most common complaints I have heard throughout this process are, one, that the matter has been a public relations disaster from the beginning; and, two, that there has been insufficient information provided on everything from why small-market franchises require substantial public contributions to why you are so insistent on controlling the revenue from parking spaces and concessions.
A: The No. 1 point we failed to get across is that the Maloofs are not going to make a tremendous windfall here. If we had signed that 30-year lease without enough parking spaces, I guarantee you we would lose money in 20 of those years. We don't have the 200 suites you have at the United Center in Chicago. We don't have a single Fortune 500 company, nothing close to what you have in New York, L.A. and San Francisco. You can only raise ticket prices so much, which is why you need the parking and the other revenue. People say, "Oh, they don't have that many in Memphis." Well, take a look at what's happening in Memphis. Michael Heisley is selling. Look at Seattle. Bad lease agreement, and Howard Schultz got out of the business. We just never got these points across. ...
The second most important part -- there has to be someone, like a (former Sacramento Mayor) Joe Serna, who, after the election, steps up and leads and doesn't worry about the polls. We need somebody to give us some direction, come up with a plan. I don't have any more answers.
Q: So what is your mood as Tuesday approaches?
A: You mean after that whipping we're going to get? (Laughs) There's a lot of malice. People are disgusted. A lot of it will be a negative vote, caused by some things that aren't right. We got a bad rap. Our family has been in business for 150 years, and our reputation has never taken a hit like this, so, yeah, it hurts.
Q: Yet you still seem committed to the market.
A: We are, we are. But it all comes down to a facility. Arco is the second-oldest building in the league. It doesn't work anymore, not if you want to stay competitive. So if we look at 2008, something has to get done. And do people still want us here? We don't want to be anywhere people don't want us.