An Open Letter To The New Owners Of The Warriors
Authored by Daniel Leroux - July 15, 2010 - 8:57 pm
Dear Joe and Peter,
Welcome to the family. While Joe appears to have been around this block before, you are both embarking on what should be an incredibly fun, albeit incredibly public and stressful ride. What makes the Warriors special in both the Bay Area sporting community and the NBA as a whole is an incredibly passionate, loyal, and typically savvy fanbase. Having fans that are loyal and bring one of the best in-game atmospheres to Oracle Arena brings with it the benefits that had to be at the center of your mind when it came to purchasing the team, yet they also bring some unique challenges when it comes to the next few steps in the transition.
First, be clear and honest about your connections to the Warriors and basketball in general. Joe, your interview with the venerable Marcus Thompson II went a long way in this regard- being a ten year-plus season ticket holder is something fans can relate to. One or two stories about particularly memorable experiences, either big moments or small, can fans a sense of your previous involvement with the team.
Second, don’t sugarcoat the previous ownership reign. This looks to be harder for you guys than for the oft-rumored Larry Ellison if the bits I have heard about Mr. Lacob having a relationship with Chris Cohan are correct, but it is more than necessary. There is no bigger pitfall in this PR war than defending or siding with one of the least popular owners in sports. It would be the equivalent of a scientist coming out strongly as supporting Copernicus’ heliocentrism. If saying too much negatively on this is uncomfortable, don’t say much. However, any positives towards Cohan would not yield dividends in any corner of Warriors fandom.
Third, be candid and clear about the context of the sale from your end. While this may not have been an anticipated necessity, clearing the air about the process could accelerate the next steps and really foster some goodwill. Again, Joe’s interview with MTII hit the right stride with this and the facts surrounding a largely closed bidding process work in your favor, yet inertia alone will not do the work that a little openness and candor will. Think of it like Tiger Woods or any of the baseball steroid stonewallers- making sure your side is out there and the truth can take away the clouds that are making many of us uneasy.
In the long term, those concerns should be relatively short-lived and non-determinative of the legacy. That said, getting the fans that are already into it fully on board should help in the immediate and give a PR buffer which just about every new owner will need down the line.
From there, I’ll make a few other general thoughts while trying not to step on the toes of Ray Ratto and others who have written similar pieces recently:
-Keep your PR staff. As someone who dealt with these guys and gals a good deal over the last year, the work they have done has been simply incredible. Raymond Ridder and his crew are excellent at their jobs and can be a major asset if used correctly. Considering what they have done with a team that has only made the playoffs once since I was in elementary school, imagine how much better it can be with a team worthy of these fans.
-Be aggressive in seeking out the right talent from a front office perspective. When it comes to finding a new general manager and coach, it is better to swing for the fences and miss a few balls than it is to square up and either bunt or try and get a bloop single. Strange events have taken serious talents like Kevin Pritchard (who played 12.5 minutes a game on the 90-91 Warriors, by the way) and put them into the market at exactly the right time for you guys. Even if the elite personnel guy end up going elsewhere, going after them will show both the fans and the rest of the league that you mean business. Matt Steinmetz’s work about Mr. Guber’s connections with Eric Spoelstra [link: http://www.csnbayarea.com/07/15/10/Spoe ... eedID=2799
] are exactly the right way to go about this.
-Have many voices in the personnel process and only one decider. One of the things Mr. Lacob’s old team has done incredibly well is bring stats-centric thinkers into the fold while not relying on them exclusively. While this team has done an excellent job picking up talents off of the NBA’s scrap heap, proper drafting and player evaluation would eliminate this as a necessity for keeping the team afloat (well, as afloat as they have been). While the methods and metrics for identifying strong investments are totally different in technology capital and human capital, aggressiveness and top-notch talent through the draft and sleeper free agents is what keeps great teams at the top in a league with a soft salary cap and favorable rookie contract scale that will only get better for owners with the new CBA. Adding onto the great staff, there must be someone who the buck stops with. In an ideal world, this is a basketball person instead of an owner- as NBA fans, I hope you have seen what Michael Heisley’s meddling has done to the Memphis Grizzlies. Helping shape the team is fully within your rights- you’ve paid for it. That said, remember that having a single person (like Darryl Morey or Danny Ainge) to synthesize all of these differing and competent opinions reduces clutter and stabilizes the message.
-Build around Stephen Curry. You are lucky enough to have bought a team with a blossoming talent who is still under team control on a reasonable contract for at least four seasons. While some argue that excellent point guard play does not lead to championships, the fact of the matter is that elite PG’s get their teams to the playoffs. Local products Jason Kidd hasn’t missed the playoffs since he was 23 and Steve Nash has only been left out once in a season he played more than 57 games. Curry is a phenomenal talent with an insane amount of room to grow in terms of running an offense and leading a team. Adding David Lee and having some better luck with injuries should help, and using Curry as the lens to view prospective moves both in terms of on-court talent and coaching/personnel can get this team back to relevance sooner rather than later.
-Remember and embrace the loyal fans. I understand that the team is means for profit generation as well as pride, entertainment, and everything else. Keeping that in mind, remember that the fans are what make the Warriors special just as much as the legit media market and wealth base. I am sure that Joe remembers the atmosphere of both the We Believe team’s games and more recent barn-burners like the game against the Celtics the day after Christmas in 2008. In an area with a wide variety of incomes, business choices that price out the diehards would eviscerate the very core of the experience.
-Embrace the positive history the Warriors have. Ray Ratto discussed this in his piece, but I want to focus more on the team nearer and dearer to my heart: Run TMC. Each one of these guys is beloved by this fanbase and takes us back to an embraceable though all-too-short period in recent Warriors history. Having some sort of Rum TMC night (potentially with some corporate support by our friends at adidas) along with bringing back Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond, Chris Mullin, Sarunas Marciulionis, Mario Elie, and even the aforementioned Kevin Pritchard back to Oakland and Oracle Arena would be a jolt for this team and ideally the larger Bay Area sports community as well.
Keeping all that in mind, I wish you the absolute best of luck. These fans deserve a winner and it’s high time they got one.