The Warriors honored their 1974-75 championship team on Monday night, and the star of that team, Rick Barry, was his usual outspoken self. Barry, the greatest of the West Coast Warriors, was in a scolding mood and he let some Warriors fans have it for their behavior three years back during the Chris Mullin jersey retirement ceremony.
For those who don’t remember, near the end of the celebration, Warriors owner Joe Lacob was vociferously booed for an extended period of time, blemishing what should have been a coronation for Mullin.
“All those fools that were booing during the Chris Mullin ceremony should be writing letters to Joe Lacob apologizing for what they did because it worked out pretty good,” said Barry, who was there that night.
With all due respect to the Hall-of-Famer, he’s dead wrong. In fact, I’d go the other way: Lacob should be thanking Warriors fans for booing him that night. The owner needed it and deserved it.
One of the great misconceptions about that night — March 12, 2012 — was that the boos reigned down upon Lacob because he traded then-fan favorite Monta Ellis to the Milwaukee Bucks for Andrew Bogut.
I was at Oracle that night, and when I heard the boos I didn’t think it had anything to do with the trading of Monta Ellis. Oh, that was part of the reason, of course, but I thought the boos were coming for other reasons at the time. Because up until that point, you could make a case that Lacob already had alienated and annoyed the fans for plenty of reasons — even though he’d only owned the team since November 2010.
There were many reasons why fans booed that night.
One of the reasons was because Lacob bought the Warriors and wasted no time in talking a ridiculously big game. In one of Lacob’s first press conferences he chided Mullin, who had been the team’s prior GM — and indicated Mullin had “made a mistake” in how previous teams were assembled.
Lacob also went the predictable route, making silly and meaningless promises — such as the team would make the playoffs in his first year and that Klay Thompson would win rookie of the year. Fans also didn’t like that Lacob fancied himself a basketball man and made no secret that he was involved in personnel decisions, etc.
So hollow comments, accompanied by two seasons of losing on Lacob’s watch, weren’t sitting well with Warriors fans by that time.
Lacob also was booed that night because of his insensitivity and tone-deafness to his own fan base. After buying the team, Lacob made it clear he wanted to move the team to San Francisco, which is something that all previous ownership groups had explored up to that point.
But Lacob seemed to be a little more bold about the move, referencing it often and holding most of the team’s big press conferences in SF. Fair or not, the perception was that Lacob was giving the heart and soul of the Warrior fan base — the East Bay — the Heisman and High Hat (“Millers Crossing”) all at once.
Between Lacob buying the team and the Mullin retirement, it’s fair to say that many Warriors fans already had heard way too much from Lacob. Like the chubby kid who doesn’t have to be called down twice for dinner, Lacob never needed a second invitation to talk in front of a microphone.
Which is another thing that got him into trouble that night.
It all kind of coalesced with the fans’ frustration coming to the surface. Some of this frustration likely lingered from the Chris Cohan era, one in which the team missed the playoffs all but one of Cohan’s 16 seasons as owner. Interestingly, Lacob’s behavior that night served as a perfect example of why he was getting booed in the first place.
For some reason Lacob decided to speak after Mullin, which is a no-no in any league and you’d think Lacob’s co-owner and Hollywood guy Peter Guber would have known that. Lacob talking after Mullin, the highlight of the show, came across as the owner trying to make it about himself … again.
And the fans were having none of it. There was a point early on, when if Lacob had continued to talk over the boos, they might have subsided. But instead, Lacob stopped, held the microphone off to the side, and started to wait for the boos to stop.
Only he had the appearance of a condescending teacher waiting for his junior high class to settle down or a petulant child who was not getting his way. It wasn’t a good look, and naturally, the booing continued.
That night turned out to be a disaster for Lacob, but there was a silver lining: Mullin, the man actually being honored, came across looking like his usual classy and gracious self when he twice came to the aid of Lacob, a man who’d insulted Mullin before ever meeting him.
Lacob still references that night, and always focuses on the link between the booing and the Monta Ellis trade. I think that still makes many Warriors think: “He still doesn’t get it.”
Yes, that was part of it. But it was so much less about Monta Ellis than it was about Joe Lacob.
Who knows what effect the booing had on Lacob that night and after. Maybe Lacob became a sliver more humble, maybe a shade less arrogant. Perhaps he even became a hair more open-minded or started listening to his basketball people just touch more.
Maybe he began to think he didn’t know as much as he thought he knew, and maybe, just maybe, Lacob took some of that lesson and began applying it to how he was running the Warriors. The Warriors, who, by the way, are now 57-13 and the talk of the entire NBA.
So, yeah, if Lacob became even a little more wise that night, then he’s the one who should be thanking the Golden State Warriors fans.
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