From 1990 through last spring, Petrie was in the NBA fast lane, orchestrating drafts, making deals and maneuvering personnel groups for Portland and Sacramento.
“With the exception of the last 3 to 3 1/2 years,” Petrie says, “it was incredibly rewarding.”
The last few years were challenging under the failing ownership of Joe and Gavin Maloof, the Las Vegas hoteliers who had purchased the club from Jim Thomas in 1999. The team came close to a move to Seattle before Commissioner David Stern and Mayor Kevin Johnson stepped in to spearhead an 11th-hour deal to extend the arena lease.
By the end of Petrie’s time in Sacramento, the on-court product turned from very good to very bad, with seven straight losing seasons and no playoff appearances while winning fewer than 30 games in each of the last five years.
“We just didn’t have any (resources), really,” Petrie says. “Most of the trades we made were to make money, and we did a lot of that. We were still trying to do things in terms of talent, too, but the economics were always at at the forefront.”
Adelman was fired after the Kings went 44-38 and lost in the first round of the playoffs in 2006. Beginning with the 2006-07 season, the Kings were never winners again. Adelman’s successors — Eric Musselman, Reggie Theus, Kenny Natt, Paul Westphal and Keith Smart — didn’t pan out. The Kings were always on the low end of the NBA payroll, staying under the luxury tax threshold serving as a priority for the Maloofs.
“They were incredibly dynamic,” Petrie says of the brothers. “It could go off the reservation at times, but in general, they could be really nice and were always respectful to me.
“When they fell on financial hard times, though, that changed a lot of things. Faced with the seriousness of the situation they had, anybody in the same place would have done a lot of the same things they did to survive. It’s really unfortunate the set of circumstances that happened.
“In spite of all that, you still feel completely responsible for the end result. We had some good drafts, but we weren’t able to utilize all the pieces to keep on building a team. Through it all, though, I still liked to go to work. I had a great group of people working with me.”