Recently, I have been critical of select leaders – new Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, Sarah Palin, Memphis Grizzlies Coach Lionel Hollins - as the actions of each negatively impacted their followers in some way.
Admittedly I have been remiss in failing to highlight more positive actions of leaders that truly benefit their followers – the actions of those looking out for the welfare of their respective organizations. This seems like an appropriate place to begin 2010.
Geoff Petrie has been the GM of the Sacramento Kings since 1995. When he first took over the floundering franchise, the team was in disarray. The Kings had very few player assets – so Petrie built through both the draft and (arguably) brilliant trades. He drafted lesser-known players such as Pedrag Stojakovic and Jason Williams – both of whom blossomed into stars. And he made a blockbuster and regionally unpopular trade in sending 33 year old guard Mitch Richmond – the Kings best player at the time – to the Washington Wizards for the oft troubled power forward Chris Webber, who was 25 and entering the peak of his career.
In signing Vlade Divac and trading for Mike Bibby, Petrie slowly and steadily assembled the components of a championship caliber team, including the coaching staff. From the 1998-99 season through the 2005-06 season, the Kings, once laughingstocks, were mainstays in the playoffs – consistently competing for the top spot in the Western conference, at a time when most of the top teams in the NBA resided in the West.
In the 05-06 season, the Kings' core had aged and they once again had to start over – this time primarily through the draft. Over the past four years, Petrie has drafted Kevin Martin, Francisco Garcia, Jason Thompson and two of the top rookies in this year’s draft class in Tyreke Evans and Omri Casspi. The Kings are widely regarded as a team on the rise, even though there have been occasions this year when their entire starting lineup has been under 23 years of age.
That’s why the news that hit the wires was somewhat surprising. Although Petrie is slated to make roughly $4 million this season, he just finished negotiating his own three-year extension for $1.2, $1.4, and $1.5 million, respectively. Essentially, Petrie negotiated an average pay cut of 66% over the next three years. Why? Here’s part of his reasoning:
Given the economy, what's happened in the job market everywhere … I happen to believe in shared sacrifices.
Taking such a dramatic pay cut is unusual. Negotiating the pay cut yourself, despite reported feelers from major market clubs offering the opportunity to make more money elsewhere, is extraordinary. Contrast these actions with some of the prominent headlines in 2009: the absurd bonuses paid to Wall Street executives after taxpayers had bailed them out of an impending financial crisis; coaches such as Brian Kelly abandoning his team prior to its bowl game for the promise of more prestige and more money at Notre Dame.
It’s too bad that Petrie’s sacrifice was nothing but a brief footnote on the news wire. These types of actions may not be reaching the larger public, but I guarantee that they’re making news within the Kings’ organization. When it comes time for these younger players to renegotiate their contracts, they’ll remember the monetary sacrifice that Petrie has made in order to finish the job that he started. And that will influence their negotiations. And that will have a positive impact on the entire organization.
There are other examples like this out there, but in a culture that emphasizes the scandal they are simply harder to find. I’ll resolve to look a little bit harder in the upcoming year and place more emphasis on the positive actions of leaders that can serve as examples to us all.