SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Pete D'Alessandro has wanted a leading role in professional basketball since his father first took him to watch Julius Erving and the old New York Nets on Long Island in the 1970s.
On his 45th birthday, that wish finally came true.
The Sacramento Kings formally introduced D'Alessandro as the team's new general manager Monday, handing over basketball operations to the former Denver and Golden State executive who has spent a lifetime waiting for such an opportunity. He joins coach Mike Malone, hired just two weeks ago by new owner Vivek Ranadive, who said D'Alessandro emerged from the "long and arduous process" as the clear candidate.
"This is the foundation for the new era of the Sacramento Kings," Ranadive said.
Ranadive said he searched for the smartest, most eager and most passionate person. He touted D'Alessandro's use of analytics, understanding of the league's salary cap and ability to communicate with players, agents, coaches, scouts and basketball executives.
After interviewing D'Alessandro late last week, Ranadive sought the advice of Chris Mullin. The former Warriors All-Star and general manager — whom D'Alessandro worked under from 2004-08 in Golden State's front office and is likely to take an official consultant role with the Kings soon — left Ranadive convinced he had found his man.
"He told me Pete's the smartest guy out there," Ranadive said.
D'Alessandro spent the past three seasons as vice president of basketball operations in Denver, which won an NBA-franchise record 57 games last season before losing GM Masai Ujiri to Toronto and firing NBA Coach of the Year George Karl after falling to Golden State in the first round. He replaces Geoff Petrie, who has overseen Sacramento's basketball operations since 1994.
Short and scrawny since he could remember, D'Alessandro's dream evolved over time. He had once hoped to play in the NBA, as many young boys often imagine.
"It became pretty clear by the time puberty hit that that wasn't going to happen for me," D'Alessandro said. "But I wanted to be in it. I really wanted to be in it."
D'Alessandro often went out on a boat with his uncle Pete, a commercial fisherman whom he was named after. He would take time on the boat to reflect and read the book "Basketball's Fastest Hands: Little Men Who Make Big Plays."
Later, he asked his eighth grade guidance counselor to introduce him to Hall of Fame coach Lou Carnesecca at St. Johns while attending school there. He served as video coordinator — "when there were no video guys" — for Carnesecca, earned his law degree from Nova Southeastern University in May of 1994 and was admitted to the New York State Bar in 1995.
D'Alessandro served as the campaign manager for New York Congressman Rick Lazio's successful re-election to the House of Representatives. During that campaign, D'Alessandro met his wife, Leah. The couple now has two children: daughter Kate, who turns 4 on June 29, and 17-month-old son Benjamin.
The trio attended the news conference with D'Alessandro's parents, Tony and Adele, who live in central Florida and took a late-night flight from New York, where they had attended a wedding. The family and team officials even serenaded D'Alessandro with happy birthday wishes, and he blew out three candles on the cake, saying "you can guess my wish."
"He's been successful his whole life. I really believe he'll turn this thing around here in Sacramento," his father said.
D'Alessandro later held a temporary job as a paralegal making about $9 an hour before moving back into the sports world with a Washington D.C.-based agency founded by Bill Pollak. After seven years representing NBA and international players, he got the call from Mullin to work for the Warriors.
While he might've had an opportunity to be Denver's GM, D'Alessandro said Sacramento's new regime offered him a chance to build a fresh foundation.
"I think there's a time in your life where you have to look and say ... 'When are you going to step out and when are you going to do your own thing? When are you actually going to take a leap and believe what you can do?'" he said. "I've always been that second guy. I've always been that guy who could help and had success at that, and I feel I'm ready."
D'Alessandro takes over basketball operations for a franchise that fell on hard times in the final years under the Maloof family, whose name has already been wiped clear of everything in and around the arena since Ranadive took over last month— right down to the new asphalt laid over the spaces that once marked the family's spots in the staff parking lot.
After making eight straight playoff appearances, the Kings have failed to make it to the postseason the last seven years and have the second-worst record in the NBA during that span. D'Alessandro's first item of business in Sacramento will be the draft on June 27, when the Kings have the seventh overall pick.
Sacramento also must decide what to do with Tyreke Evans, the 2009-10 NBA Rookie of the Year who is set to become a restricted free agent. D'Alessandro said he already has reached out to volatile but talented center DeMarcus Cousins, who has averaged 16.3 points and 9.8 rebounds per game his first three seasons while struggling with defense and discipline, calling him an "incredible talent" who will be part of the team's rebuilding plans.
Above all else, the new GM said he's "looking for people who take their jobs seriously." He also made it clear that Malone, a longtime NBA assistant who spent the past two seasons with Golden State, would have been his choice for coach.
While acknowledging fans might not always agree with his decisions, D'Alessandro promised they won't be disappointed with his work ethic. He has been doing his own research on the Kings for weeks, starting by reading Ranadive's best-selling book "The Power of Now" before his interview.
"At the time, I didn't think I'd get the job. At least I got to read the book," D'Alessandro said.
Ranadive admitted he had talked to such a talented crop of candidates that D'Alessandro was more of a long shot. Instead, he said D'Alessandro blew him away.
"If a good chess player thinks two moves ahead," Ranadive said, "in Pete we have a guy who can think four moves ahead."
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP