The Tyranny of "We Believe"
My basketball team, the Golden State Warriors, announced their General Manager Chris Mullin would not return next season. It was a formality, since Mullin had been marginalized all season. He fell prey to an incredibly lousy owner, a lovable but machiavellian coach and a fan base that are content with mediocrity. Warning, this will be long, about basketball and probably not that interesting to many. I think I am venting more than anything.Mullin was a very popular ex-player who became GM in 2004. He started out rough, handing out big contracts to several questionable players, and drafting a few high profile busts. In recent years, he had turned it around with great personnel moves like the trade for Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson. He had the team in excellent salary cap position and drafted several talented young players (which our coach would then ignore, but more on that later..) Mullin was not part of the problem.
2007 saw the Warriors pull off the greatest upset in NBA history, with a playoff win against the heavily favored Dallas Mavericks. It was an exciting young team that coalesced around Mullin's deal for Baron Davis, and Don Nelson's wacky coaching. The fans of the team rose up and carried the team for stretches of the still unbelievable end of the season where every game was must win. The arena was blanketed in yellow shirts and the playoff cry "We Believe" was everywhere. Many hoops wags have called them the best crowd in the NBA. They are part of the problem.
Don Nelson is a coaching legend famous for his iconoclasm. He has spent his career making the most out of the minimal pieces he had. No one is better at creating match up issues than Nellie (as we affectionately refer to him). He is a master of riding a few veteran players to success. Nelson is also famously disdainful of rookies. He simply refuses to play them at worst or gives them wildly inconsistent playing time with an incredibly short hook. He (with a big assist from Chris Webber) ended the Warriors last sustained successful streak in the early 90s. Perhaps most perniciously, he is also excellent at playing office politics. He cultivates an "Aw shucks" personality that belies the level of his meddling. He would have us believe that the coach has no say in personnel matters, even as he marginalized Mullin and put "Nellie guys" in the front office. He is part of the problem.
The owner of the Warriors, Chris Cohan, has presided over the longest playoff drought in NBA history, 1994 (his first year) to 2007 (We Believe). He has meddled in personnel issues, and made countless bad decisions. Perhaps none as disastrous as his strange fixation with punishing Montae Ellis for injuring himself on an ill-advised moped trip. Ellis is the future of the franchise & it's best player, so Cohan's attempts to alienate him were a bad sign. Cohan is part of the problem.
The schism between Mullin & Cohan came to a head with the Ellis situation and resigning Baron Davis. Mullin wanted to resign Davis, but Cohan didn't want to chance the money. Instead he paniced and threw 50 million at ex-Clipper Corey Magette. That money could have been used to keep Davis, but Cohan wouldn't do it. With Ellis, Mullin realized that alienating your best player was a bad idea, and wanted to welcome him back after he healed. Cohan was fixated on punishing Ellis, and caused all sorts of acrimony between Ellis and the team.
The biggest problem with the Warriors is the fans fervor. The fans will support this team no matter how poor the effort put forth. They believe, whether belief is warranted or not. The fans almost never boo the home team, and tend to softball any issues. They refuse to acknowledge the poor ownership, meddling coach and strategic missteps of the team. This pollyanna view of the team is the big problem. Until the fans hold the team accountable, the mediocrity will continue.
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