?Signed free-agent guard Bobby Jackson in August 2000 to replace Tony Delk. Jackson is a front-runner for the Sixth Man Award.
?Filled the Kings' void at shooting guard a month later by acquiring Doug Christie from the Toronto Raptors for forward Corliss Williamson. Christie was NBA All-Defense second team last season.
?Swapped point guards with the Memphis Grizzlies last June, landing the reliable Mike Bibby for the erratic Jason Williams.
While Petrie is loath to explain what he looks for in a player—"Maybe it's because I'm not sure myself," he says, smiling—with some goading he reveals a few traits he values. Petrie likes Europeans, who are generally more skilled, if less physical. "Basketball was never meant to be an arm-wrestling match," he says. He favors multi-faceted big men, which explains his pursuits of Webber and Divac, both sharp shooters and slick passers.
Another skill that Petrie prizes is vision. He looks for players who instantly recognize variations on set plays or who quickly clear out of the way for a teammate. "Of all the stuff Pete and I talk about," says Petrie, "we spend the most time on seeing the game." Carril believes that Petrie's moves, while sometimes bold, are predictable. "The way you think affects what you see, and what you see affects what you do," says Carril, an aphorist of the first order. What he means is this: Petrie played basketball fluidly, believes that's how it should be played and goes after the type of player who can give him that game. That's certainly the style of the highly entertaining Kings, who run, shoot and pass as well as any team in the league.
Such has been Petrie's front-office impact that he has been referred to around the league as the next Jerry West. Sacramento will have to win a tide before Petrie can don the mantle of the Lakers' former president, who assembled seven championship teams. But it's an interesting comparison, because before Petrie was the next Jerry West, he was...the next Jerry West.
At 6'5" Petrie was too quick to be crowded, too canny with the ball to be stopped in traffic (he was the master of the spin dribble, you know) and too gifted a shooter to be given space. Drafted eighth in 1970 by the expansion Trail Blazers and signed to a three-year, $150,000 contract, he averaged 24.8 points and was co-Rookie of the Year with Dave Cowens. Though Portland went 29-52, the team was young and frisky, and for one splendid season the NBA was everything Petrie had thought it could be. While he wasn't nearly as good defensively as West (then 32), Petrie looked like the kid most likely to succeed him as a high-scoring, perennial All-Star guard.
George Petrie, a tough Marine vet, had died of a brain tumor when Geoff was 10, and sports had become Petrie's refuge. Along with being an all-state basketball player at Springfield (Pa.) High, Geoff was a terrific quarterback and a live-armed pitcher who was drafted by the Washington Senators. When he got to Princeton in 1966, having responded to the recruiting entreaties of Bill Bradley—he still has all the letters Bradley sent him—Petrie was, he insists, into things besides hoops. He majored in sociology and had a closet interest in art. He failed Spanish, but Petrie says it wasn't for lack of effort. "I was behind most of the kids who came from private schools," he says. "I had to work hard to make it academically." But basketball was at the core of his being. "The only true gym rat I ever coached," says Carril, who often had to kick Petrie out of the gym at eight in the morning and again at 10 at night.
That's what Petrie was doing—shooting around alone—when his life changed in the summer of 1971. He was at Portland State, preparing for his second season in the NBA, when he felt what he describes as "a catching" in his left knee. Doctors later connected the injury to one he had suffered playing football in eighth grade, even though his knee had never bothered him in high school or at Princeton. Had he known that summer morning what the next seven years would bring, he probably would have lain down and cried. Many observers were never aware of the torn cartilage that gradually deprived Petrie of quickness and mobility. He made the All-Star team in '71 and '74. During the '72-73 season he scored 51 points on Houston Rockets defensive ace Mike Newlin, took note of Newlin's postgame comment ("He'll never do that again"), then laid another nickel-penny on him weeks later in a rematch. But it was never easy, his career increasingly a miasma of surgeries, rehabs, cortisone shots, pain and frustration. He was traded to the Atlanta Hawks after the '75-76 season but never played a game for them. At training camp in October '78, he walked up to coach Hubie Brown and said, "I'm done." He gave back $50,000 in guaranteed money and walked off to start a new life, whatever that might be.
Over the next several years, watching basketball often made Petrie nauseated. He moped around a lot and, in keeping with his quiet nature, internalized his frustration. His first marriage was going badly, but his three children were a joy; he was divorced in 1984 and got custody of the kids. He dabbled in real estate, managed the office of the Trail Blazers' team doctor and took over the basketball team at Willamette College in '83-84 when the coach went on sabbatical. "I missed my prime, and there were times when I thought, This just isn't right," says Petrie. He's asked how good he could have been with a healthy left knee. He stares into space for a long time before answering. "That's not for me to judge, I guess," he finally says. Sacramento coach Rick Adelman, a teammate of Petrie's for three seasons in Portland, plays judge. "Geoff would have been one of the alltime great ones," he says. "No question in my mind."