John Thomas' long and stormy tenure with the Kings has ended. Co-owners Joe and Gavin Maloof bought out the final year of Thomas' contract today and announced a restructuring of the franchise's business operations.
In the two most significant moves, Kings legal consultant Matina Kolokotronis was named president of business operations and assistant general manager Jason Levien assumes additional duties as the club's general counsel and senior vice-president. Additionally, John Rinehart is promoted to senior vice-president of the business department, while outside consultant Kevin Kaplan is expected to become even more closely involved with ticket sales and marketing.
The changes also will reflect the Maloofs' renewed involvement this season in all aspects of the team's business operations and, according to Joe Maloof, reflects their intention to become increasingly engaged in the future.
"We've taken a very active role again," Maloof said from New York, where he is attending business meetings. "The basketball side is (Geoff) Petrie's deal. Nothing changes in that regard. This all revolves around business and doing what we can to bring our fans back. The people we're talking about have strong Sacramento ties, and have lived there for years, for the most part."
Asked specifically about Thomas' departure, Maloof explained, "Sometimes an organization can get flat. You need somebody (Kaplan) to come in from the outside and shake things up a bit. John did a lot of very good things for our organization, one of the most important being the 10-year (television) contract he got us six years ago with Comcast (SportsNet) We thought it was time."
Sources close to the situation say that Thomas could have remained with the organization, but opted for a buyout rather than a demotion. And his departure doesn't come as a complete surprise. Thomas, who was previously president of the Houston Rockets, was hired by the Maloofs when they purchased majority ownership of the Kings in 1999. He has been a polarizing figure since the then. He purged the business department immediately, and alienated community and business leaders - as well as season ticket holders - with his strong-arm tactics.
His ultimate demise, however, is directly linked to his lack of creativity regarding ticket plans and promotional packages during the team's ongoing rebuilding process. In contrast to other NBA teams who reduced prices and offer more flexible packages when teams struggles, Thomas resisted, arguing that to do so damaged the "brand." Additionally, he was reluctant to market the game's marquee players during their visits to Arco Arena - another NBA marketing staple. When the Maloofs began re-evaluating the business side last spring and during the offseason, they became increasingly concerned about the lack of innovation and turned to Kaplan for advice as the season approached.