Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hey, Chris: Shut the Door on Your Way Out!

As I write, the Warriors have the third worst record in the NBA, at 19-51. A winning percentage of .271, which is horrible, and yet not much worse than the team's .366 percentage over these last 16 seasons combined. The 16 seasons, of course, is what Chris Cohan has to show for his legacy as the Warriors' owner, including one memorable playoff appearance. One playoff appearance in 16 years. Do you realize how hard it is to miss out on the playoffs in the NBA 15 of 16 years? More than half the teams (16 of 30) make the playoffs, The Warriors' one playoff appearance in 16 seasons is fewer than any other team in the NBA.

These abyssmal numbers are worth noting because Cohan yesterday announced that the team is for sale. Finally. He has ignored overtures in the past from those interested in buying, but no longer. The Chronicle notes that Cohan's cash flow is not what it should be, that the IRS nailed him for more than $160 million in back taxes&penalties three years ago.

Cohan was a minority owner of the Warriors until he sued the previous ownership tandem of Dan Finnane and Jim Fitzgerald to gain control of the franchise, prior to the start of the 1994-95 season. For the players, and the fans, he could not have picked a worse time.

The Warriors had just completed an exciting and successful 50-32 season, led in part by the NBA Rookie of the Year, the charismatic Chris Webber. The head coach, Don Nelson, couldn't get along with Webber, who was a proud young man, but hardly unreasonable. Webber simply did not like being publicly ridiculed by Nelson, who had a penchant for doing just that to rookies, who typically took the abuse without complaint, which Webber failed to do.

Nelson was so inflexible on this point that he completely ignored the wise words from trusted colleagues Al Attles and Ed Gregory, among others, who advised him strongly to sit down with Webber, and work out their differences together for the good of the franchise, which was on the verge of becoming a legit NBA power. Instead, Nelson traded his Franchise Player, and that set the team on a downward spiral, out of control, that continues to this day. Webber, meantime, re-surfaced in Sacramento, and led the Kings to a glorious run of success, nearly making the NBA Finals, before losing to the Lakers in overtime of game seven of the Western Conference Finals.

Cohan, although he has never admitted it publicly, allowed Nelson to make the Webber trade, because he didn't have the balls to stand up to him and say no, which Finnane and Fitzgerald surely would have done. They would have said, "Nellie, sit down with Chris, and work this out, or you're gone!" Cohan was a wimp. He failed to understand how critical Webber was to the Warriors long-term success. And yet, a few years later, during an interview with Robert Bronstein on KICU-TV, Cohan claimed that he had no role whatsoever in the Webber trade, that he took over the team after Webber was dealt. That's an outright lie. Cohan precided over the news conference, announcing the trade. He sat with Nelson. He opened the news conference. He occasionally interrupted reporters' questions (including my own), in an absolutely pitiful attempt to defend the deal. And then, with Bronstein, he claimed to have had no role. Pathetic.

Since then, he has hired the wrong people, fired the wrong people, and become such a recluse that he actually ran away from then-Chronicle columnist CW Nevius, who tried to interview him years ago when the NBA All-Star game came to Oakland. He also got booed by his own home fans, when introduced during a halftime on-court ceremony. It might have seemed a bit cruel to some, at the time, but really, who can blame the fans? They have paid countless dollars to support this team over the years, and all they want is competent ownership, and a consistently competitive team. For the last 16 years, they haven't had any of the former, and very little of the latter.

So, who's going to buy the Warriors? Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has made no secret of his interest. He can certainly afford it. He does not like losing. He is obviously far more likely than Cohan ever was to put the proper people in place to run this organization like it should be run. So, here's hoping he can pull off the purchase. Or, if not him, somebody else with the financial resources and smarts to put this franchise back on the road to success, where it was when Cohan took it over 16 years ago, and where it has rarely traveled since.