OAKLAND — His sandy red flattop no longer is a common sight in his suite at Oracle Arena.
He once was a regular at Warriors practices. Now that's a rarity, which also would describe his shoot-around attendance.
Chris Mullin, the Warriors executive vice president of basketball operations, is a ghost.
"I've hardly seen him," one player said. "Where's he been? I think I have seen him maybe twice."
Mullin, once the face of the franchise for the second time in a generation, has practically disappeared. Soon, he is expected to be gone completely. According to multiple team sources, Mullin's days as the franchise's head basketball honcho are numbered. The situation has many fans and NBA insiders scratching their heads.
How did the executive who pulled the strings to turn around a doormat franchise wind up the roommate who can't move out quickly enough? How did the architect behind Golden State becoming relevant again wind up a lame duck?
The answer depends on whom you ask. For most of the season, two schools of thought have emerged from the organization. There are those who believe Mullin is a victim of ego-tripping team president Robert Rowell. They believe Mullin is underappreciated and disrespected, and he was all but forced out when his authority was undermined.
Conversely, some quietly contend Mullin hasn't been held accountable for his mistakes. They criticize him for wasting money, poor communication
and disappearing this season.
The philosophical differences, personality clashes and infighting surrounding the organization's two most powerful non-owners have left a black cloud over the Warriors all season. With the 2008-09 campaign coming to a close, things are set to come to a head.
Neither Mullin nor Rowell made themselves available for comment for this story. Mullin's contract, which he signed in 2004, expires July 1, when the NBA's fiscal year begins. It seems Rowell is opting to let Mullin's contract expire rather than fire him.
The reason? Again, it depends on whom you ask.
Who is to blame?
Mullin's supporters say Rowell is trying to avoid the inevitable public relations nightmare from firing someone as beloved as Mullin, one of the best players in franchise history. Some Rowell supporters agree. Others say Rowell has been waiting for Mullin to reclaim his job, to jump back in and be part of the fold again.
Either way, the question begs: How did this all happen? Two years ago this month, the Warriors were in the playoffs and Mullin was the executive who ended the 12-year postseason drought. Now, it seems both sides are running out the clock on his reign.
"People have been waiting for him to do his job," one Rowell supporter said. "Sure, they had some disagreements and he was overruled on some stuff. But he could have sucked it up and showed up."
One of the few things both sides agree on is that the problems began during the 2007 playoffs. One side said Mullin's camp was too zealous about claiming credit for turning around the Warriors. The other side said Rowell was jealous about Mullin getting all the glory.
It was around that time that Mullin began discussing an extension for point guard Baron Davis. The following offseason, the breakdown of those negotiations proved to be the beginning of the end.
Mullin wanted to give Davis an extension. He was overruled by Rowell, who wanted to put incentives and/or team options on the last two years of the deal. It has been reported that Rowell rejected a three-year, $39 million deal Mullin worked out with Davis. But Davis disputed that report, and multiple sources said a deal never made it to Rowell, which, to Rowell's supporters, is indicative of Mullin's communication problems.
Mullin is known for being reserved. When he does talk, it's short and blunt. His silence, instead of championing the company line, has long since been an issue, according to some members of the organization. Plus, his camp leaks information to the media, some believe.
Mullin's supporters contend he's a straight shooter who subscribes to the if-you-ain't-got-nothing-nice-to-say philosophy. They say it's Rowell's camp, which includes coach Don Nelson, who leaks information. And they point to Rowell as the one who made inappropriate public comments.
Dealing with Ellis
When the Warriors announced the 30-game suspension of guard Monta Ellis, who injured his left ankle in a moped accident in August and lied about how he sustained the injury, Rowell went public with his and Mullin's disagreement over how Ellis should be punished.
Rowell supporters said Mullin wanted to let Ellis off the hook. But Mullin's stance, according to his supporters, was to punish him but be compassionate to Ellis, to use the situation as an opportunity to show Ellis the franchise was behind him.
"They asked Mullin's opinion, and (Rowell) didn't like the opinion," said one Mullin supporter, who requested anonymity. "Then he went public with it. Not Mullin. (Rowell) chose to tell the media. Why was he even giving the interview? Bobby wanted to chop his head off, and Mullin maybe was too lenient. But in the end, that stuff should stay in-house."
The disagreement over how Ellis should be punished deteriorated the relationship further, but a series of moves in little over a month drove Mullin into the shadows.
Between late October and November, the Warriors gave a two-year, $12 million contract extension to coach Don Nelson, traded forward Al Harrington and signed swingman Stephen Jackson to a three-year, $29 million contract extension. Not only was Mullin not involved in those moves, he wouldn't have approved any of them, according to team sources.
In November, the Warriors fired assistant general manager Pete D'Alessandro, Mullin's right-hand man. What's more, the Bay Area News Group reported last month that Nelson undermined Mullin's power by latching himself to Rowell, a belief bolstered by the Warriors hiring of what many believe to be Mullin's replacements: Nelson's right-hand man, Larry Riley, and brought in former Milwaukee Bucks general manager Larry Harris (as assistant coach), who is the son of Del Harris, Nelson's good friend and longtime assistant coach.
"He's got no power," another source sympathetic to Mullin said. " ... He can't hire. He can't fire. He can't make a trade. How can a guy with his position have no authority? You stripped him of his ability to do his job."
Supporters of Rowell contend someone needed to step in, as Mullin cost the Warriors millions with bad decisions.
More questionable moves
Another thing both sides agree on: Power forward Ike Diogu and center Patrick O'Bryant, taken No. 9 overall in 2005 and 2006, respectively, were bad draft picks.
Then there's the widely reported contracts Mullin doled out: $58 million to Troy Murphy, $40 million to Adonal Foyle, $36 million to Derek Fisher, $45 million to Mike Dunleavy, $50 million to Corey Maggette. All are regarded around the league as overpaid.
"(Rowell) got him whatever he asked for," a Rowell supporter said. "Every contract, no matter the amount, Mullin wanted done, (Rowell) sold it to (owner Chris) Cohan."
Other failed investments — such as the million-plus spent on oft-injured guard Troy Hudson and the three-year deal given to European project center Kosta Perovic (sources said the Warriors only paid him for the first year) — also drew the ire of Rowell.
But Mullin supporters said Mullin corrected his mistakes, either getting those salaries off the books or trading them for better players. Overshadowing his failed moves, they say, are the doozies he pulled off to change the franchise.
Redemption for Mullin
Acquiring Davis was arguably the best trade in Warriors history. Mullin also drafted center Andris Biedrins and Anthony Randolph, plucked Ellis in the second round and swingman Kelenna Azubuike and rookie guard Anthony Morrow from relative obscurity, traded for Jackson and signed center Ronny Turiaf.
Mullin's crew contends he made the Warriors a franchise players wanted to join. Two summers ago, the possibility of playing for Golden State intrigued All-NBA forward Kevin Garnett. This past offseason, the Warriors' lucrative offers were spurned by high-profile free agents Gilbert Arenas and Elton Brand.
"Look at the players he brought in here," one of the sources said. "This was not a place players wanted to come play. He changed that, and now it's getting back to how it was."
No one on either side has completely closed the door on Mullin's return, leaving room for a miracle. It would no doubt take some heated meetings, some swallowed pride, some delineated roles.
But the opportunity for reconciliation might have come and gone. Mullin, a Hall of Fame candidate, "has too much pride" to come crawling back, some say. And Rowell "isn't willing to give up power," many believe. Plus, Mullin working side-by-side with Nelson confidants is likely not going to happen.
So the likelihood is the clock will continue to tick on the Mullin era until — to steal a line from the movie "The Usual Suspects" — just like that, he's gone.
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interesting article, thanks for posting...
I count 9 bad mistakes and 8 good decisions for mullin. pretty even. I think both sides blow his abilities as a GM way out of proportion. He wasn't awful, He wasn't spectacular. he was pretty good (which is better than what we had before). I wish him the best of luck where ever he goes and am slightly sad to see him go since he has been making mainly good decisions as of late.
I just hope they pick a good GM next year, I do not want rowell and I do not want don. Rowell doesn't know basketball well enough, and Nelson... yeah, no thanks.
btw I don't know if mullin made us a franchise that players want to join. I mean, we've had no all stars on this team in how many years? furthermore, KG, Brand, Arenas DIDN'T join the dubs. who cares if they were interested? If you throw a crap ton of money at anyone they will consider joining you. the question is: do they seriously want to pull the trigger, or are they just trying to bump up their trade/signing value by showing that they're talent is in high demand?
I think attracting big name players starts with good coaching. I know Don's had a lot of injuries to deal with this year, and the youngest squad in basketball to mentor (I have to say, there were no real attitude problems this year - big plus for such an awful season) but this run n' gun, playground-style, free-for-all basketball just makes our franchise look silly.
Anyone that says they'd rather watch us play "exciting basketball" rather than watching a team like the spurs slowly, but systematically, destroy their opponents is helping this cause. wake up dubs fans! Phoenix is where we will be in 5 years if we don't watch out - an aging run n' gun club that's streaky as f#ck, never a serious NBA finals contender, taking one step forward and two steps back every year (because you need to have a young QUICK team in order to be an "effective" run n' gun).
Fortunately I think Don and a lot of the vets realized this a little this year. the number of times Jackson would dribble down the court, use one screen to get an open shot and jack up a three with 20 secs left on the clock were much less than two season ago. Corey, in the beginning of the season, would basically sprint a head of everyone receive the ball and jack up a shot with very little time left on the clock, both of them have relaxed their trigger finger significantly this year (although Maggs still has a way to go). In the last month of the season when there was nothing but scrubs playing, I saw a REAL offense actually being run, and it did make me happy to see. Hopefully they can build on this once the stars return next season.
No I'm straying off point but one other thing I really want to see next season is fast breaks where we actually get a lay-up. I wanted to rip my hair out every time I saw the team force a turn-over start a fast break and then make a bad decision - either a horrible pass, a bad decision to take it coast to coast, or worst of all, SETTLING FOR A 3 IN TRANSITION. that last one hurt us sooooo bad last year, esp late in a game. c'mon guys finish with an easy bucket.
OK, weird half-rant over
U-Dough, the BAKER®
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This part says it all.
The man is a Warrior legend. He made some mistakes but man, did he make some good moves too. You gotta give him some time to get on a good roll. Many more GM's before Mullin should have gotten fired sooner but didn't.
I would say after the 2007 season, there were probably many premier players that looked at Golden State differently. They saw a team having a lot of fun playing basketball with the potential to be a strong threat in the West. With Mullin in the front office, Baron on the court, and Jessica Alba in the stands, I think we definitely would have attracted some of the better players in the league. Well, at least we would have had a better shot at them than we do now...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3pIsA0Q ... re=related
Steph Curry fakin Chris Anderson out of his jock: awesome!
look on Turiaf's face: priceless
Yet another reason to completely loathe Nelson............after Mully revived his career, and gave him a reason to get out of bed and earn stupid amounts of money for doing not very much.
Anyone who says they dont mind Mully leaving is a joke of a fan, and doesnt even deserve the word "fan" next to their name.
As far as Mully and his mistakes..........well, there IS such a thing as the learning curve!
And funnily enough, most/if not all of Mully's bad decisions came in the early part of his GM'ship, and all the good ones came towards the end of his stay here (except for Maggs but hey, what else was he supposed to do with all that money? there was no-one else to give it too)
Ok, Im going to stop talking about this now because my blood is beginning to boil...........the day Mully officially goes, I think Ill stay off here for a little bit, cuz it aint gonna be pretty.
The thing i look at though, is when he made the mistakes and when he redeemed himself. He seemed to have righted the ship. He should have taken credit for the playoff run. He aquired Baron, He aquired Harrington and Jack. He made the moves, why should rowell get credit? because he allowed the moves to be made? he's not a basketball guy so he shouldn't meddle too much in there. It could be another long drought. Lets start aquiring the 21st century versions of Gugliotta, Bimbo, Seikaly, B.J., Price, Fortson, Mills, Starks,Van Exel..... all crap players that were good at one point and came to the Warriors for the death of their career. (Googs had a decent career after but was a whiny bitch anyway)
ok ok sorry googs (ya whiny bitch) lol, anyway i just mean i feel like our "guys" are going to aquire mediocre talent and we'll suffer for another 15 years, in that case i probably won't be able to take it up the arse for that long again.
fair enough. I have a feeling this team is gonna get bad in a hurry. Hope i'm wrong.
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