I’m trying to picture the most fervent of Sonics fans over the past five seasons, kneeling at their bedsides, beseeching the deity of their choice: Gary … Shawn … Nate.
(Or maybe even Gus or D.J. or Jack — if they are still observing the Old Testament).
Could any of those humble penitents, in good conscience, have asked for a fully capitalized group of respected local businessmen committed to bringing back the NBA in a new arena?
Could they have imagined a group of Hansens and Ballmers and Nordstroms saying: We’re not only going to come up with the better part of a billion dollars to buy the team and build the arena, but if the revenues don’t repay the fraction of public debt, we’ll cover it. And if there are cost overruns, we’ll cover them too?
Could they have imagined ownership that wasn’t out to exploit the taxpayers, extort the city, short-change the fans and draft a series of weak-kneed first-rounders in the Swift-Petro-Sene legacy?
Since all this improbable fortune appears to be on its way to becoming reality, it would be conspicuously greedy to add to a wish list at this point. So let’s just address a few questions arising soon.
• Who’s going to run it?
Some of the first speculation includes the names Phil Jackson and Larry Bird. May I say once more: Phil Jackson and Larry Bird.
That’s Phil Jackson, of the 11 NBA coaching titles, and Larry Bird, the only human who has spent a lifetime being Larry Bird.
The scuttlebutt on Jackson is that he’d be brought in as a senior advisor, and he would serve as the face of the front office while they build public relations momentum. That might be perfect for him at this stage of his career.
But as for who actually might rebuild this franchise, let’s not be wowed by a flashy name.
Remember when the old Sonics brought in the 30-year-old Sam Presti to be general manager? A lot of us wondered if it was a way to just get somebody on the cheap. No, they got somebody on the rise, and he quickly built the Sonics/Thunder into an NBA Finals team.
Likewise, when the Seahawks hired 38-year-old John Schneider, some of us figured he might be a secondary figure to coach Pete Carroll. But he’s creative and shrewd and indefatigable, and he’s been at the heart of the franchise’s roster revival.
So, Sonics, find that guy.
• Who’s going to coach it?
Current Kings coach Keith Smart is in his fourth NBA season and has never had a winning record.
Nate McMillan, Mr. Sonic, the man with his No. 10 jersey in the rafters, is the obvious choice. As much as the New Sonics need to avoid the urge to put the old band together for sentimental reasons alone, Mac-10 is too good to avoid.
He’s got a career record of 478-452, built without the benefit of consistent front-office support or a healthy roster. What could he do with both?
• Who’s going to play for the team?
Well, it seems it would be best to take over the Kings as soon as possible, get them to tank every game to enhance their lottery position, and trade whatever excess baggage you can. And that roster has a lot of it.
You may recall the last two seasons of the old Sonics were marked by lamentable basketball that led to the drafting of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
The Kings’ best player is DeMarcus Cousins, a behavioral nightmare who has been suspended for conduct detrimental to the team.
So, start over as best you can, even if you have to hit bottom, because fans are going to be so glad to have basketball back they won’t utter the word “boo” for a couple of seasons even if it gets really ugly on the court.
A couple of keepers, though, are locals Isaiah Thomas and Aaron Brooks. A Husky on top of it, the engaging Thomas will be a fan darling from Game One.
• Who’s going to announce games?
Is there any debate to this? The New Sonics should crown Kevin Calabro Announcer For Life. Calabro calling the first tipoff in a new arena for the revived franchise would be like hopping on a magic carpet ride.
• What’s a fan to do?
Save your money, and watch for the moment the first schedule for the New Sonics is released. And as quickly as you can, get your money down for tickets for the first game that the Oklahoma City Thunder come back to Seattle.
Good golly, Miss Molly, that will be wild.Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 firstname.lastname@example.org @DaveBoling