The Warriors’ glitchy dismissal of Mitch Richmond
I heard about this several weeks ago, confirmed it through various sources in the meantime, and almost didn’t post anything about it.
Though I surely never hold back on criticism of dumb Warriors things, I don’t consider Larry Riley’s oopsy handling of his recent dismissal of Mitch Richmond to be Truly Dumb.
It was just a mistake in process. An error, a glitch. We all make ‘em; heaven knows I do.
But I decided to write about it because:
1) It’s a little peek into some of the difficulties any GM, especially a new one, has in dealing with all the things he has to and communicating with all the people he’s supposed to;
2) It involves Richmond–a supreme Chris Mullin buddy and one of the best and most popular players in franchise history;
3) It’s the Warriors, who have quite a knack for big and little glitches, and if you add it up, Warriors fans might get an uncomfortable feeling about the operation.
Or not. Your call.
OK, long preamble. Here’s what happened:
–Back in May, Richmond, a special assistant and then director of player personnel for all of Mullin’s five-year run as head of basketball ops, was justifiably uncertain about his front-office status once the Warriors announced that Mullin was gone and that Riley was taking over as GM.
At the same time, Riley apparently was trying to get a hold of Richmond. But Richmond is very, very difficult to get a hold of. Especially by phone. That’s not debatable.
It’s not clear whether Richmond ever tried to get a hold of Riley for direct word of his future or not, but it’s certain that they never hooked up via phone.
So, failing in other attempts, Riley text-messaged Richmond. I don’t have it word for word, but people who know the back-and-forth say it was something very much like: “I can tell you we will be retaining you for next season.”
What? Yep, Riley’s message said the Warriors would be retaining Richmond. Which surely couldn’t be correct.
–Richmond, no dummy, was surprised by the contents of the text-message. He’s Mullin’s guy, his contract was up, he assumed he would be getting released, also.
Probably realizing there was more to the story, but wanting to see where this was headed, Richmond text-messaged back to Riley, something to the effect of: “OK, fax me my contract.”
–Riley either immediately realized after sending his text that he made an error or, once he saw Richmond’s reply, REALLY realized the error.
He had to send another message to Richmond. Something very close to: “Sorry, I missed a word. I meant to say that we will NOT be retaining you.”
And that is how Richmond was dismissed by the Warriors.
Pretty unbelievable, no? But all true.
–I reached a Warriors spokeman today who said the team is declining comment on this matter. But nobody is denying that it happened.
I’ve heard it from three separate sources, telling an almost identical chronology, except with gray areas about when Riley realized he’d made the error and how quickly he followed up the error with the correction.
Again, I do not repeat this story in order to denigrate Riley, who seems like a genuinely nice guy and is developing a reputation as a straight shooter, locally and around the league.
In this case, Riley is only guilty of making a terribly-timed typo, to an important figure in franchise history. That’s what makes it interesting, however. You’d think, dealing with Richmond, Riley would make sure he got it right.
It’s also possible that Richmond didn’t respect Riley enough to make an effort to speak in person, so blame who you want on that one.
And if you want to figure out how things get gummed up on a larger scale–for instance, maybe when the Warriors and Suns are talking draft-night trade, with multi-millions and four or five players involved–you can see how communications sometimes break down under pressure.
Over and over, the best sports executives have said that their jobs are actually in the communication business: Who they communicate with, how often, how clearly, and with what result.
Errors can happen. With the Warriors, who are so often involved in intrigue and dramatic tension, seems like they happen a lot.
Another great showing by the management of this franchise
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"the victorious warrior wins first, and then goes to war; the defeated warrior goes to war first, and hopes to win."- The Art of War
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