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Why Joe Lacob Got Boo’d

Let me start by saying in no way did Joe Lacob deserve the treatment he received Monday night. That was the NBA version of a public stoning. It hasn’t been a full two years since Lacob and Peter Guber won the auction for the Warriors. He has officially been the owner for a mere 16 months. He hasn’t even had time to accrue that kind of venom – which was worthy of Chris Cohan or Donald Sterling or Clay Bennett should he find himself introduced for some reason in Seattle. Not even the trading of Monta Ellis – which was a good trade on multiple levels – justified that historic humiliation.

What’s more, Chris Mullin certainly didn’t deserve that. Though the love for Mullin was obvious and overt, the night where he was supposed to be the star of the show is now dominated by Lacob’s treatment. We should be talking about Mullin, what he meant to the franchise, how he’s back after a few years of being an outcast, where he ranks among the all-time greats. Instead, we’re talking about Joe Lacob and the nerve of Warriors fans.

MULLIN: “As the greatest fans in the NBA as everyone stated, sometimes change is inevitable and its going to work out just fine with your support and patience. Use that passion in teh right direction. This thing is going the right way.”

BARRY: “One second here. C’mon people. You fans are the greatest fans in the world, as everybody has said that. Show a little bit of class. This is a man I’ve spent some time talking to. He’s going to change this franchise. This is crazy. Seriously. C’mon. You’re doing youselves a disservice. … I know he’s going to do it, so give him the respect he deserves.”

With that said, by my estimation, it is far too simple to write off that debacle as the classlessness of Warriors fans. As an isolated incident, the behavior of Warriors fans was nothing short of unnerving. But it would be borderline clueless to view the reaction what sounded like a large portion of nearly 20,000 fans in a vacuum.

What happened Monday night was a culmination of events. It has been building for some 20 months and it came to a head during Mullin’s special night.

Here is why Joe Lacob got booed.

* He won the auction, winning the team and preventing the Warriors from having what many felt was the dream owner. Larry Ellison had been rumored to be interested for years and once he was officially in the hunt, fans were excited. Finally, their franchise would be thrust into relevance thanks to a billionaire rock star owner. But that was spoiled when Lacob and Guber came out the winners, leaving Golden State with an owner known only in the inner circles. That is where it all began.

Qualifier: You could argue Lacob won the bid because he wanted the team more – since Ellison, who has much more money, could have ended the whole thing at any point. Fans perhaps should appreciate they got an owner who REALLY wanted to own the Warriors.

 

* Lacob set the bar really high from the start. As refreshing as it was to have the owner be out front and open to the public, Lacob’s lofty talk set him up for failure. Here is Lacob in his very first interview after he won the auction in July 2010.

“We got it. We’re all about winning. We think it’s a very good opportunity as a business enterprise and the potential is there. But this is all about winning. We’re going to change the course of the franchise.”

Qualifier: Lacob actually has in certain ways changed the course of the franchise. But not yet in the way that matters most – wins. For a franchise starving for success, such talk only increases their hunger. After two trade seasons passed, Lacob’s Warriors had yet to make a move that changed the team’s fortunes in the win column.

 

* On top of striking out in the offseason and at the trade deadline, Lacob caused some controversy at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in March 2011 pushed him into the role of antagonist with fans. Lacob made some comments about who were real fans. He later said his comments were misrepresented, or at the very least taken out of context. Even if they were, that situation still put Lacob on the opposite side of the fence with fans.

 

*At the end of last season, the 16th time in the last 17 years they didn’t make the playoffs, Lacob went out on a limb. In a letter to Season Ticket Holders, the Warriors guaranteed they would make the playoffs. After striking out on two trade seasons, and excusing losing with injury woes, the Warriors were still pushing big talk onto fans. This time, they promised discounts if the Warriors did not make the playoffs in 2012 – an marketing ploy that didn’t seem to go over well with fans.

Qualifier: Perhaps ownership could be lauded for setting the bar high and putting their money where their mouth is, by giving a discount to the STHs. Still, Warriors fans would much rather a winning season than slightly cheaper tickets.

 

* When re-shuffling the basketball operations staff, Lacob kept basically the same front-office staff (led by the not-so-beloved general manager Larry Riley) and added an agent-crossover in Bob Myers. These were hardly the big splashes fans were hoping would be made. Lacob already was gaining the reputation of being an involved owner. But with his unheralded basketball credentials, many hoped he would land a proven basketball mind with vast connections to run the Warriors’ front office. That didn’t happen.

Qualifier: He did clean house, getting rid of team president Robert Rowell and cleaning out a lot of mess, especially on the business side.

 

* After firing Don Nelson, his next two coaching hires similarly failed to satiate Warriors fans. Keith Smart was a last-minute promotion. He lasted one year and the Warriors followed by hiring Mark Jackson, a rookie coach with zero coaching experience. Many Golden State fans had grown weary of Nellie, but still he was the all-time winningest coach. The Warriors followed a man of heavy credentials with unknowns with limited-at-best track records. Plus Jackson, in many ways, echoed the lofty talk of Lacob. He promised the Warriors would play defense and make the playoffs, prompting many a Warrior fan to roll their eyes.

Qualifier: Not very many options were available. Many of the coaches were retreads who hadn’t done much anywhere else. Plus, Golden State had a very young squad, so there was some value in getting a young coach that could grow with the squad.

 

* The Warriors used the amnesty on Charlie Bell and not Andris Biedrins (or saving it for later). Warriors GM Larry Riley said he couldn’t ask Lacob to spend $27 million for Biedrins to go away. That will go down as one of the biggest misses in the Riley regime, which of course makes it one of Lacob’s biggest misses.

 

* In early December, news broke that the Warriors were meeting with San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee about building a stadium in San Francisco. This supported the long-standing belief that Lacob wants to move the team to San Francisco – a belief fostered by Lacob’s affinity for San Francisco. (Every major press conference the Warriors have had has been in San Francisco).

 

* In an effort to sign DeAndre Jordan, the Warriors waived local boy Jeremy Lin, disappointing an extremely vocal and loyal segment of the fan base. He becomes a star in New York, infuriating fans (especially considering they got nothing for him). Lin is the latest in a list of Warriors who leave or are sent from the franchise only to become good on another team.

Qualifier: Lin likely would not have been as good with the Warriors. Plus Lacob was the one person against the move. Still, as an involved owner who makes himself the face of the franchise, he gets the blame.

MARK JACKSON: “I understand the passion of the fans. I totally understand it. But there is a game plan. And if you sit back and look at it, you know that it’s a heckuva game plan. And you appreciate it.”

 

*The coup de grâce came Tuesday, March 13. Golden State traded away the franchise’s best player, Monta Ellis. The electrifying guard was a fan favorite and had been the most productive Warrior for years. Along with him, the Warriors gave up second-year big man Ekpe Udoh, who had won over fans with his positive impact.

What’s more, in return, they acquired a center who is out for the season with a fractured ankle. So the Warriors won’t reap the benefits before next season.

DAVID LEE: “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 and to a lot of people that’s frustrating.”

 

I still think it must be said that Lacob, or whoever planned the event, contributed to the scenario by having Lacob speak last. It’s an unwritten rule that the guest of honor speaks last. There should have been no speakers after Mullin. His daughter should have come up and helped Mullin unveil the jersey in the rafters and that was it. To get out there and follow the man of the hour, to even be willing to do that, was simply a poor job of reading the room.

Plus, his body language and his somewhat condescending “I’ll wait for you to be silent” stares didn’t help matters. With all the history involved in this, with all the patience the Warriors are asking from fans, that wasn’t the time to be ornery. Maybe have fun with it, show some humility, that probably would’ve worked more than the irritated stares and disbelief.

Again, Lacob doesn’t deserve what happened. But it’s too easy to vilify Warriors fans. They have endured so much since the Chris Mullin-led era that acting out should be understood if not expected. Either way, I find it hard to make Warriors fans the antagonists of any story involving the Warriors.

LACOB: “I’m not going to let a few boos get me down, and I don’t expect a few boos to get our team down. I think everybody has to stay tough, these are tough times, we’re going to go out there and we’re going to compete and we’re going to win. And that’s my job as an owner, too, we’re going to do everything we have to do. Not going to let a few boos stop us. I obviously think whoever was booing is incorrect in their assumptions, but we’ll just let time heal all wounds. Winning will solve all things.”

Marcus Thompson

  • TooFunny

    Absolutely disrespectful to Mullin, Lacob and essentially the whole Warriors fan base. Idiots. And the Warriors should re-think what they say and do publicly since they haven’t produced, sold the fans on a losing product again inclduding hyping up Monta and have now reversed course. They should have better layed the ground-work that anything can happen including trading Monta or any other player to bring a winner back to their “beloved” fans. But they probably won’t make that mistake again. Hire a(another?) professional PR person or check-in with the other majority owner on how to create a great Show or both!

  • Spencer

    These kinds of articles are why this is always the first place to come for Dub news. Thanks Marcus.

  • Simon

    Very-well written article, Marcus. Stumbled on to it by accident, but it’s by far the best Warriors piece I’ve read in years.

  • moreaufan2

    It wasnt towards Mullin, the issue for me is that lacob should have never gotten up there period!, you cant control how people feel. i waitched it and yes the booing wasnt cool, but I wouldn’t call the people idiots, just cats who obviously were upset about the trade, he should e been smarter than to get up there, he got what Larry Riley should have gotten, thsts the General manager! Now he is an idiot!! And if we were aiming for change so much, why did we keep the same GM, Dumb! He is the one who made these draft picks. No way Udoh should have been drafted that high! No way baron Davis should be gone! No way we give a big contract to Stephen Jackson, then all of a sudden he wanted out. Now way we allowed Mullin to not still be the GM, when he put together a Playoff team! So you guys tell me, who are the real Idiots!!!!

  • moreaufan2

    I guarantee Mullin understood the Boos, and who cares about Rick Barry, he cant even land an NBA gig because he has one of the worst attitudes and most arrogant guys ever that no one wants to work with him, still a great Player though!

  • moreaufan2

    He said I have talked to this guy, and I feel that, but nobody said Laco was a bad person. but he allowed a bad decision in many’s opinion to be made by a terrible GM. And bottom line is that Monta is going to kill in Milwaukee while we continue struggling to win games. Then rid Udoh who was coming together as the player we hoped. Wow, made alot of since, then bank it all on a 7 footer with a broken ankle to lead the franchise, really? So to me this whole deal remains to be assessed! Mullin is great and did great during his time here!

  • John

    There is another subtle reason the fans booed that has not gotten publicity. The Media. There has been a lack of objective commentary and the fans are frustrated. The radio and television broadcasters all on the Warriors payroll talk about how great the trade was when fan response is totally different. They had no voice and the opportunity finally came. Lacob is clearly in a bubble surrounded by “yes men” – he needed the reality check and needs to have a pulse on the loyal fan base. His intentions seem good, but he is in a bubble. – or was.

  • Fire Bob Fitzgerald

    A must read (especially for posters who are chiding the fans who booed):

    http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/7714701/how-annoy-fan-base-60-easy-steps

  • Rob

    Was a better list than Bill Simmons’ bloated “analysis.” Nice piece, Marcus.

  • Casey B.

    who bout texas doe?

  • shredder

    You nailed it at the end MT – “condescending”. i would describe him as supercilious…i.e. full of pride or scorn; haughty. we were watching at home – “jl was getting more and more p.o.’d!”. fans weren’t buying what he was selling – rightfully so. a little less hubris works – he is a smar guy but i am not sure jl has any humble in him…

  • Fat Panda

    Wow. Amazing article. Great link Fire Bob. Thanks!

    Bill Simmons just became my favorite sports writer of all time.

  • Stan

    He left out that Don Nelson smiles like “what a knucklehad I was” for trading Webber..when asked about that trade.
    He left out-Lacob bought the team..and kept the whole crummy FO..Including Ridder and Fitzgerald..both renowned flunkies. Who buys a loser business..and keeps the crap talent?
    He left out..that right now in the NBA,the two hottest teams are..the Bucks and Knicks.
    Oh well..Lin and Monta will get that east coast bias love out of it. Thats something positive.

  • Grey Warden

    That last 2 paragraphs of Bill Simmons’ article pretty much sums up why fans booed Lacob. Was pretty much dead on. Maybe somebody should email that article to Lacob. I would, but I don’t know his email address.

  • marquee jackson

    Bill Simmons is spot on especially in the last 2 paragraphs. He understands why we season ticket holders are fed up and that the boos were directed to the Ws organization and with no disrespect to Mully. I am a big fan of Chris and would love for him to have an outstanding evening. If Mullin was in our shoes, paying the outrageous ticket prices which went up again this year by the way, he probably would air out his frustration as well.

    Hand Down, Man Down – throw in the freakin towel Warriors.

    Where is that Rock Star Billionaire?

  • Cohan

    You have to wonder if Mullie and his family will have to buy their own soft drinks when they fly discount Alaska airline to Hawaii. Mullie definitely will have to pay for parking and internet since his hotel rooms were the ‘name your own price’ variety from Priceline.

    Enjoy your holiday Mullie.

    All understandable, our ownership group has more loan payment than any other franchises in NBA.

  • JJ

    Ok so Lacob should take the blame for 35 yrs of inept ownership / FO ?? No he didn’t deserve it. Yes, you blame the ignorance of the fans not appreciating the guy and not seeing the big picture and not seeing the brilliance of the the Monta trade. They should be cheering the guy for trying to turn around one of the most inept franchises in sports. All booing did was show their ignorance of basketball.

  • Martina

    Lacob was booed because many fans are stupid f***ing idiots, that’s why.

    The evening was to celebrate Mullin, yet the morons and idiots decided to take the place over and embarrass real basketball fans.