The plan, of course, was to be an NBA star. It is what Pete D'Alessandro, his brother Jon and all their neighborhood buddies dreamed about during those endless summer days, playing basketball on the court their father, a high school journalism teacher, had built in their backyard in Bohemia.
This was the 1970s, when Julius Erving still played for the ABA Nets on Long Island and anything seemed possible. Then life, as it does, threw D'Alessandro an air ball. The Nets moved to Jersey, Dr. J was traded to the 76ers and by the end of his sophomore year in high school, D'Alessandro had failed to reach the height of 5-5.
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"I don't want to say I got cut by my JV team, but I read the writing on the wall," said D'Alessandro, who was named general manager of the Sacramento Kings last week and introduced at a news conference Monday. "That's when I started thinking about Plan B."
Turns out that Plan B, which evolved over time, worked out pretty well for the Connetquot High graduate. D'Alessandro, who turned 45 the day he was introduced to the media, will get his wish of playing a starring role for an NBA franchise when he makes the Kings' seventh overall pick in Thursday's NBA draft. It will be the first of many key decisions for D'Alessandro as he attempts to revive a franchise that has fallen on hard times after making eight straight playoff appearances from 1999-2006.
"I'm just a kid from Bohemia," D'Alessandro said with a laugh in a phone interview Wednesday. "I imagined this, I dreamed it and now I'm here."
Truth is, it was a lot more complicated than that. Bespectacled, bald and barely 5-9, D'Alessandro looks more like a lawyer or a sports agent than a general manager, a position frequently held by former NBA or college players. But D'Alessandro, who has worked as a lawyer and a sports agent, is at the forefront of a trend in sports management that increasingly is relying more and more on statistical analysis.
"The 21st-century GM has to understand the complexities of [salary] capology, the development of technology, the use of analytics," new Kings majority owner Vivek Ranadive said. "And if a good chess player thinks two moves ahead, in Pete we have a guy who can think four moves ahead."
D'Alessandro also is a people person, which goes a long way in explaining how he got from his backyard in Bohemia to the front office in Sacramento. In his introductory news conference, D'Alessandro made a point of thanking nearly everyone who had taken a chance on him in the course of his career. Leading that list was former St. John's coach Lou Carnesecca.
D'Alessandro enrolled at St. John's in 1986, Mark Jackson's senior year. Butch Dellecave, D'Alessandro's eighth-grade guidance counselor, knew Carnesecca and helped him get an interview. Carnesecca hired him to be a video coordinator, then an unpopular job because it involved coming to work at 7:30 a.m.
"He's going to make a great general manager," Carnesecca said last week. "He's very smart, very studious and a very hard worker. And he loves the game."
That love of the game has been the driving force in forging D'Alessandro's unusual career path. A chance meeting with then-super agent Bill Pollack in a parking lot at St. John's convinced D'Alessandro to go to law school. After getting a degree from Nova Southeastern University in Florida, he practiced a bit on Long Island and managed Rick Lazio's congressional re-election campaign in 1996, during which D'Alessandro met his wife, Leah.
It was Leah who urged him to pursue his dream of working in sports. D'Alessandro temporarily worked as a paralegal with a large law firm making $9 an hour before Pollack hired him for his Washington agency. After seven years there, another St. John's contact, Warriors GM Chris Mullin, hired him to work in his front office.
D'Alessandro spent four years with the Warriors, influencing the signings of Andris Biedrins and Monta Ellis and helping to trade away Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy. He lost his job after Mullin's contract wasn't renewed but landed a job working under the Denver Nuggets' Masai Ujiri, who was trying to find a way to deal with Carmelo Anthony's trade demand. D'Alessandro played a large role in putting together the massive swap that sent Anthony to the Knicks.
In Sacramento, D'Alessandro finally will get to be the No. 1 guy, a chance to live the dream he started formulating 30 years ago in his backyard in Bohemia. It clearly was an emotional moment for D'Alessandro, who flew in his parents, Adele and Tony, for the news conference.
"It's unbelievable. Here I am this 5-foot-9 bald guy from Long Island walking the streets in Sacramento and people recognize me," he said. "I've always loved this game. It feels great to be here."