Mitch Richmond: Teammate’s greeting with Kings was ‘Welcome to hell’

Dan Feldman

When the Kings hired George Karl in 2015, Rudy Gay reportedly greeted his new coach with, “Welcome to basketball hell.”

Apparently, there’s a deeper history of calling Sacramento hell.

In 1991, the Warriors traded Mitch Richmond to the Kings for Billy Owens, that year’s No. 3 pick. Richmond recalls meeting with Golden State general manager Don Nelson

Richmond on The Habershow:

I walked in, and the first thing I said to him, I said, “I know you traded me. But don’t tell me you traded me to Sacramento Kings.” And he said, “I traded you to Sacramento Kings.” And I said, “Thank you. I really appreciate it.” And I turned around. And that was one of the worst days of my life, really.

Richmond wasn’t despondent only because he had to join the Kings. This deal broke up Run TMC – the Warriors’ high-octane trio of Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin. Those three reflected more on their time together on The Habershow. I highly recommend listening to it.

But Richmond also had reason to be leery of Sacramento. In six seasons since moving there, the Kings had a losing record every year.

Richmond:

It was unbelievable. I walk in, and the first thing I hear from one of the players, they go, “Welcome to hell.” And I’m like, “Aw, s—. Damn.” I’m like, “What? Oh my god.” So, I sit down. Now, I’m just sitting there. I have my clothes on and Spud Webb comes down sits right next to me.

Spud whispers to me and goes, “Man, I don’t wish this on nobody. But I’m glad you’re here with me.”

Coincidentally, Sacramento was playing at Golden State the next day. Richmond told the Kings he wasn’t prepared to play. Instead, he drove around Oakland. When he got home, he asked his wife the score of the game.

Richmond:

She wouldn’t even say anything. And I looked at it. We had lost by 61 points. I just started crying. I just started crying. I’m like, “Man, ain’t no way.”

I called my agent, and I – a young player, I didn’t even know the rules. And I called him, and I said, “Is there any way I can retire?”

I said, “Can I just retire and come somewhere else?” He said, “Ah, it doesn’t work that way.” And I was like, “Damn.” So, the story gets even worse.

So, the next morning – I just bought my house, and I already decided I’m not moving. I’m just going to drive up every day. You know what I mean? I’m just going to drive up. I’m just going to commute. Whatever. Why not? So, I drive up, and we’re supposed to have practice at like 10:30. I get there by like 9, trying to figure out, get there a little early. Walk in the locker room. No one is there. Ten o’clock comes. No one there. 10:30 comes. No one there. I’m still there. I stay there until noon. Randy Brown walks in, and I said, “Hey, what time practice?” He said, “Aw man, we’ve got two days off.” I said, “Two days offs? We just f—ing lost by 61.” Two days off – oh my god. I said, “Oh my god. Aw, aw.”

That year, I decided I wasn’t going to comb my hair. I wasn’t going to do anything. I didn’t comb my hair for the whole year.

Dick Motta was probably, it was the end of his career. He wasn’t really – it was crazy. We were only practicing like 30 minutes. And we sucked. I mean, we were so bad. And to be down at Sacrament and then, at that time, you see the newspaper. It’s all Golden State Warriors. I cried all that year. I mean, it was tough. It was really tough.

The Kings were awful. They actually lost that game to Golden State by 62. And it didn’t get much better. In Richmond’s seven years with the Kings, they had a losing record each season.

Maybe Motta was ahead of his time. Teams now deemphasize practice to promote rest. That loss to the Warriors was the second game of a back-to-back. When Jim Boylen called for a Bulls practice the day after a back-to-back last season, players nearly mutinied.

Of course, there’s a difference between deliberate load management and lazy habits. There’s little reason to believe the Kings knew what they were doing.

It hasn’t always been so bad in Sacramento. Eventually, the Kings traded Richmond for Chris Webber, who led Sacramento to some awesome seasons.

But the Kings went back to being horrid over a long, continuing period. Even now, they’ve lost six straight and just look dismal.

Some of it is isolated errors. Sacramento’s losing has transcended owners, coaches and players. But it also seems there’s a malaise ingrained within the culture. Richmond not cutting his hair is a telling example of the attitude. Buddy Hield called out the Kings’ reputation when agitating for a contract extension.

Several years after trading Billy Owens for Richmond, Sacramento traded for Owens to complement Richmond.

Richmond:

I kept the dream alive. I said, “I wouldn’t wish this on no one. But thank god you’re here with me.”

Just pass it down to the next guy.