Warriors' new owners bring fresh hope
SAN FRANCISCO -- The new majority owners of the Golden State Warriors, Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, arranged an introductory luncheon with the local media Monday. They showed up on a crystal-clear day in a posh waterside restaurant, answered questions and were, by and large, gracious and engaging.
Thereby surpassing the previous owner, Chris Cohan, on Day 1.
While Lacob and Guber -- polar-opposite personalities -- both made several remarks that raised a few eyebrows, the general impression left by the event was that they are passionate about, and committed to, turning the team into a winning organization of which its fan base can be proud.
If that strikes you as a boilerplate sentiment for an owner, you weren't familiar with the 16-year reign of Cohan. That tenure began with Cohan literally running away from reporters in the midst of the franchise's meltdown following his decision to trade No. 1 pick Chris Webber to resolve Webber's feud with then-coach/GM Don Nelson.
After being booed with his sons at his side during the 2000 All-Star Game in Oakland, Cohan tried to remain invisible while running through a string of coaches and GMs and losing seasons. The fan base, based on message-board and talk-radio remarks, took it as a sign of indifference to their pain and longed for the day Cohan would sell the team.
Even Guber, at one point, glibly referred to the previous regime as a form of illness, saying the new ownership's aggressive, open-minded approach might not cure cancer but it could "cure Cohan."
Guber is the fast-talking Hollywood movie mogul bursting with ideas about how to tap into a younger fan base and make the entertainment experience of attending a game "more interactive." Among the ideas he floated were a new mascot -- the Warriors never replaced the one they had to abandon, Thunder, when that became the name of Oklahoma City's franchise -- high-tech animation in the arena and earlier starts that might inspire more kids to beg their parents to attend games.
But he also decried fan competitions on tricycles and the like during timeouts as "devaluing" the overall product.
"I'm not sure what we're going to do," he said. "But we're going to ask a lot of questions to find out how we can do it better."
The taller and more solidly built Lacob, who will be the franchise's primary decision-maker, reflected his venture-capitalist background by focusing on how they hoped to develop the franchise's business relationship to the area and the globe. He emphasized that the investing partners included what he believed to be the NBA's first of Indian descent, a woman and three Asians.
Lacob, a former Boston Celtics minority owner, also made it clear his voice would be heard in any basketball decisions made by GM Larry Riley.
"I've coached, raised my kids to be basketball players and I still play," he said, referring to a regular pickup game with select friends at Stanford University. "An owner can be very involved, very influential, and not be meddling."
Lacob went heavy enough on references to the Warriors as San Francisco's team that a local columnist asked him if he realized his team was based in Oakland. To his credit, he didn't duck speculation that the team could move across the bay, admitting San Francisco Giants officials even made "a hallway mention" of building an arena next to their AT&T Park.
But he also made it clear that such an option is years away and that his primary interest right now is in building a tough, rebounding playoff team.
Final takeaway? Lacob and Guber plan to be very hands-on in changing the Warriors into a winning, entertaining outfit. They're not afraid to tell you how. That lack of fear, for now, may be the most refreshing element they could offer.
Ric Bucher is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN Insider.
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