Sacramento Kings general manager Monte McNair hit all the right notes in his opening remarks and then spent about 17 minutes answering questions with clear, concise answers during his introductory news conference Wednesday from Golden 1 Center.
McNair, 36, comes to Sacramento as one of the youngest general managers in the NBA. He said he is eager to work with owner Vivek Ranadive, Chief Strategy Officer Joe Dumars and coach Luke Walton as the Kings strive for an eventual end to the league’s longest active playoff drought after 14 consecutive losing seasons.
“I want to thank Vivek and the organization for this incredible opportunity to return to my home state and lead the Kings’ basketball operations,” said McNair, who previously served as assistant general manager of the Houston Rockets. “Obviously we’re all trying to navigate these trying times with the pandemic. I just want to say that my heart goes out to everyone who’s been affected. Additionally, the issues our country is facing with social injustice and racial inequality. I’m honored to join an organization that’s been at the forefront of using their platform for good.”
McNair fielded numerous questions from local and national media, addressing his vision, philosophy and view of the situation in Sacramento, where the Kings went 31-41 in their first season under Walton. McNair made it clear Walton will coach the team next season.
“We didn’t have a prior relationship, but we had some mutual friends so as I’ve gotten to know him the last few days we’ve had some good conversations,” McNair said. “I’ve heard great things and so far I think we’ve had a great rapport. Luke’s going to be our coach next year. I’m really excited to work with him. I think we’re aligned on our vision and we’re going to start implementing it.”
McNair went on to offer some thoughts on the style of play he prefers and key players such as De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Marvin Bagley III.
“I think this team showed some flashes last year,” McNair said. “I think De’Aaron is certainly a great young talent. I think his speed and ability offensively to create really is going to be a huge catalyst for how coach Walton and I envision this team being up tempo, creating the space to shoot 3s and attack the rim, and I think we’re excited to get going on that.”
McNair is believed to be the third-youngest general manager in the NBA. Bobby Webster, 35, just completed his third season as general manager of the Toronto Raptors under president Masai Ujiri. Zach Kleiman, 31, recently concluded his first season as general manager and president of basketball operations for the Memphis Grizzlies.
McNair inherits the roster former Kings general manager Vlade Divac assembled over the past five years. The Kings moved to a run-and-gun system under former coach Dave Joerger in 2018-19. The tempo slowed this season, but Walton continued to emphasize pace and space. McNair used those words Wednesday while discussing how Houston’s style will influence his philosophy in Sacramento.
“I think in Houston, obviously, we pushed some things to the extreme,” McNair said. “That was partly due to our personnel there. There are some tenets that will apply here. We’re definitely going to play fast. We’re going to space the floor. But there’s a lot of versatility and talent on this roster, so I think that will dictate how we build the team.”
Getting to work
McNair was also asked if he would consult with Dumars, who will remain with the Kings to help drive strategy across the organization’s entire portfolio of activities, including business, basketball, new ventures, entertainment and real estate, the team said.
“Joe’s going to assist Vivek in all aspects of the organization – business, basketball …,” McNair said. “I was hired to be head of basketball operations. That’s what I’m going to do. But Joe’s been a great player on the court. He’s been a general manager and he’ll be a great resource for me.”
McNair said he’s also happy to be working with Ken Catanella, the lone holdover from Divac’s staff, as they try to fill out the front office.
“I’m excited to work with Ken,” McNair said. “We’ve worked on some trades and things over the years. He’ll be a huge asset to me. And what I’ve learned in my years in Houston is you’re only as good as the people around you. And so my job is to fill in the rest of the front office with people who are smart, talented, diverse, and complement me so I have all the resources that I need to build this team.”
McNair is the seventh general manager the Kings have employed in their 35-year Sacramento era and the third since Geoff Petrie was fired in 2013.
McNair is their man
The Kings hired McNair last week to replace Divac, who resigned in August after five seasons as the team’s general manager. McNair was one of three finalists for the job along with Minnesota Timberwolves executive vice president of basketball operations Sachin Gupta and former Atlanta Hawks general manager Wes Wilcox.
McNair grew up in Southern California and studied computer science at Princeton. He spent the past 13 years with the Rockets in one of the most data-driven front offices in the league under general manager Daryl Morey.
The Rockets hired McNair as an analyst in 2007. He was named director of basketball operations in 2013, vice president of basketball operations in 2015 and assistant general manager in 2018. In addition to his analytical work for the Rockets, McNair has been involved in all aspects of player evaluation, including trades, the draft and free agency.
Morey discussed McNair’s role with the Rockets when he was promoted to assistant general manager two years ago.
“Monte has been absolutely critical to the success of the Rockets over his long tenure,” Morey said. “His unique combination of analytical skills and ability to work with our coaching staff was a key driver in our record-breaking season (in 2017-18).”
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