LAS VEGAS -- The Warriors going to Peter Guber and Joe Lacob instead of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison can certainly be viewed as an upset. But not nearly as upsetting to Warriors fans as something else that could result from the transfer of power from Chris Cohan: A decision by the new guys to leave bad enough alone and keep the decision-making tandem of Don Nelson and Larry Riley in place.
Immediately upon approval of the NBA's Board of Governors, the easiest and best decision Guber and Lacob could make would be cleaning out the Warriors' dysfunctional front office and starting over again. There are plenty of good candidates for both jobs available.
The coaching position would be easy to fill. The Warriors have been grooming assistant coach Keith Smart to replace Nelson for a while now, and he'd be the perfect choice to finally get the job.
As for GM, this summer has been open season on general managers in the NBA, so the list of qualified people to replace Riley is lengthy: Kevin Pritchard, Rod Thorn, Danny Ferry, Jeff Bower and David Griffin are all free agents. Jerry West, whose name has long been associated with a possible takeover of the Warriors, would be a home run -- if he's willing to get back into the grind. Even if he isn't, a tandem of West and Griffin, who worked together in Memphis, would be a solid 1-2 punch. West would restore class and vision to the organization, and Griffin -- who has a keen eye for talent and a deep understanding of the salary-cap and CBA, at least in its current form -- would be an ace in the day-to-day GM role.
Pritchard and Ferry haven't aggressively pursued any of the numerous GM openings to this point, leading to speculation that they're waiting for a more prestigious job to come along. Despite the aimless wandering of the Warriors in recent years under Nellie and Riley, there are few NBA locales more desirable than the Bay Area and few jobs with as much potential to make a meaningful imprint. From that standpoint, reviving the Warriors has West's name -- and logo -- written all over it. But it's not entirely clear if West, 72, wants to return to a front-office role. Sources familiar with Thorn's decision to step down in New Jersey said the longtime Nets boss was under the distinct impression that West, a relentless workaholic during his glory days as an NBA team executive, finally had come to enjoy retirement. Seeing West finally embrace being out of the spotlight appealed to Thorn, 69, on a certain level.
The other aspect of the Warriors' sale that warrants a mention in today's news cycle is the price: $450 million, a record for an NBA franchise that surpassed the previous mark of $401 million paid by Robert Sarver for the Suns in 2004. One of the key sticking points in the negotiations between owners and players on a new collective bargaining agreement is the escalating value of NBA franchises. If the league's financial system is so broken, the players argue, why would someone pay nearly a half-billion dollars to join the club?
But the disagreement runs deeper than that. In an interview with CBSSports.com Wednesday, NBPA executive director Billy Hunter said a point of contention in reconciling commissioner David Stern's latest assertion that the league lost $370 million during the 2009-10 season is the cost associated with buying and owning the teams. Hunter said the league's finances include such expenses as interest and depreciation, which he views as costs that should be borne by the owners and not the players. The Warriors' sale is the perfect example of why such costs shouldn't be used as an excuse to cut player salaries. Here is the simple reason why:
Cohan bought the Warriors for $119 million in 1995. His capital gain of $331 million, less expenses, is his to keep. If the owners want to count interest and depreciation expenses in the formula that determines player salaries, then the players should receive a cut of the profit when owners sell their teams. The owners, for obvious reasons, would never agree to such an arrangement. The players, for equally obvious reasons, should never allow the expenses associated with investing in the purchases of NBA teams to be taken out of their pockets at the bargaining table.
"You can't expect the players to pay for the damn franchise," Hunter sad. "You can't tell me we have obligation to pay for your franchise and then split the difference with you."
Just a couple of things to think about as you digest the news of the Golden State Warriors becoming the highest-priced franchise ever purchased in NBA history.