Warriors fans boo owner during ceremony
Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob worked into the wee hours of Tuesday morning to return ”hundreds” of emails in the wake of a stunning display by typically well-behaved Bay Area fans, who booed him throughout a halftime ceremony to retire Hall of Famer Chris Mullin’s No. 17 jersey.
As a visibly shaken Lacob struggled to make his tribute speech on Monday night at Oracle Arena, the crowd booed so relentlessly that Mullin eventually stood up and asked supporters to be patient with Lacob’s vision for a franchise that has endured decades of futility.
”Sometimes change is inevitable and it’s going to work out just fine,” Mullin told the fans. ”With your support and patience and use that passion in the right direction, this thing is going in the right way. I’ve got great confidence in Joe, Mark Jackson, and everything will work out just fine.”
When the boos continued to rain down after Mullin spoke, Hall of Famer Rick Barry hopped out of his seat and also grabbed the microphone and tried to do his part to bring calm to what was supposed to be a special occasion.
”Hey, one second here. Come on, people. You fans are the greatest fans in the world, as everybody has said that,” Barry said. ”Show a little bit of class. This is a man that I’ve spent some time talking to. He is going to change this franchise. This is crazy, seriously. Come on, you’re doing yourself a disservice. … I know he’s going to do it, so give him the respect he deserves.”
Lacob said in an email that of the hundreds of emails he received after the alarming boo-fest, ”every single one of them has been supportive.” The video clip of the halftime ceremony had generated nearly 50,000 views on YouTube by midday Tuesday.
”I and we appreciate that support. Tonight was tough,” he said. ”I felt badly for Chris Mullin and all of the other Warrior greats who made the trip to acknowledge and show respect for one of the greatest players to ever play for the Warriors. But, it is sports.”
Along with years of losing, Golden State last week traded away star player Monta Ellis – and Lacob himself has said it was a terribly difficult decision as Ellis became one of his favorite players in the NBA and that of his family. The Warriors traded Ellis, Ekpe Udoh and Kwame Brown to the Milwaukee Bucks for injured center Andrew Bogut and swingman Stephen Jackson, who was then traded Thursday to San Antonio for Richard Jefferson and a conditional first-round draft pick.
It certainly didn’t help that the trade was still so fresh when Ellis returned to make his debut with the Bucks on Friday night, with Milwaukee winning handily, 120-98.
”Obviously, many fans felt passionate about our recent trade of fan favorite Monta Ellis,” Lacob said. ”We believe that they will understand this trade as we go forward. I just wish it hadn’t tarnished the good deed of honoring someone who so clearly deserved the honor of retiring his jersey. The number 17 will never again be worn by another in a Warrior uniform.”
Lacob and co-owner Peter Guber have taken an aggressive approach to running the Warriors since purchasing the franchise for a record $450 million in July 2010 from longtime owner Chris Cohan – never a popular figure for how he operated the organization.
Power forward David Lee called it ”unexpected” watching everything transpire during a halftime show that ”was such a positive ceremony.” He understands that criticism comes with the territory in Lacob’s position as a public figure running a professional sports team.
”It definitely showed our fans’ passion. It’s frustrating for the players as well as the fans right now,” Lee said. ”We made a trade, which is in my opinion the reason why there was the reaction. We made a trade that’s not going to help us this year. It’s going to help us next year, when Andrew Bogut gets back.”
Golden State’s new owners made sweeping changes even before their one-year anniversary of running the show last November.
From bringing in first-time coach Mark Jackson to replace now-Kings coach Keith Smart, to adding Hall of Famer Jerry West in an advisory role and former sports agent Bob Myers to work under general manager Larry Riley as the GM-in-waiting, and adding former Phoenix Suns executive Rick Welts as president and chief operating officer in late September, Lacob has done it his way with no apologies.
Even if these Warriors will miss the playoffs again despite Jackson’s promise of reaching the postseason. The franchise has appeared in the playoffs only once since 1994, making an improbable run to the second round in 2007 under NBA career wins leader Don Nelson during his second stint as coach.
”Knowing him, knowing his commitment and knowing his passion, the day is going to come where he is truly appreciated around here,” Jackson said Monday after his team’s 97-93 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. ”I’ve been around a lot of owners and a lot of teams, and the guy is all about winning and putting forth the best possible product. We talked about it, and this is a process.”