Steinmetz: Mullin, W's reconcile over Hall of Fame

Steinmetz: Mullin, W's reconcile over Hall of Fame
August 3, 2011, 6:19 pm
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Aug. 3, 2011

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Matt Steinmetz
CSNBayArea.com

It looks like things are cool again between Chris Mullin and the Warriors. Or at least on their way toward being cool again.After a public falling out with previous ownership and an initial feeling out period with the new one, Mullin is back in the fold with the franchise where he played the majority of his illustrious NBA career. And where he also served as the team's general manager for five years after his playing career was over.Mullin will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame next weekend in Springfield, Mass., and it's probably nice for Mullin and the team to know their relationship won't be a topic of conversation. That's because everything is good between Mullin and the team.Mullin played 13 of his 16 professional seasons in Golden State, and was the general manager in 2006-07, when the Warriors made their one and only playoff appearance since 1993-94. But Mullin's last season as GM was marred by political infighting, and once he was gone it was out of sight and out of mind when it came to the organization.
That's no longer the case. Owner Joe Lacob, who assumed control of the team in November, has tried to repair the damaged relationship, and Mullin has been receptive to that. Things between Lacob and Mullin started with a little bit of a hiccup -- when Lacob questioned Mullin's GM strategy during his introductory press conference in November to announce his ownership -- but since then progress has been made.In April, after Mullin had been named to the 2011 Hall of Fame class, Lacob said he wanted to retire Mullin's No. 17 Warriors jersey and indicated he hadn't even realized it wasn't retired. He also reached out to Mullin at the time to congratulate him on the honor.RELATED: Warriors-Mullin Hall of Fame page
Now, with Mullin a little more than a week away from enshrinement, it's become clear Lacob has done more in terms of extending the olive branch. For one, the Warriors' public relations department is in charge of handling Mullin's media requests leading up to the event and, for two, the team has created a page on their website honoring Mullin and his accomplishment.In addition, three representatives of the team -- ambassador Alvin Attles, general manager Larry Riley and coach Mark Jackson -- will be in attendance at the enshrinement in Springfield, Mass., on Aug. 12. These might not be thought of as grand gestures, but consider that for almost three years -- a period that included the end of his tenure as general manager and afterward -- Mullin was pretty much considered persona non grata among the team's upper management.Former owner Chris Cohan and team president Robert Rowell didn't have much of a relationship with Mullin during Mullin's final year as GM. And after Mullin wasn't retained, there wasn't any relationship at all. Mullin hasn't been back to Oracle Arena since.Technically, Mullin was the general manager until May 2009, but the reality was that by the summer of 2008 things were already a mess. In July 2008, after going back and forth for months with Baron Davis' agent, Mullin thought he had a deal for a three-year, 39 million extension for the star guard.But Rowell overruled Mullin, and instead Davis opted out of the final year of his Warriors' deal and signed a five-year, 65 million contract with the Los Angeles Clippers. The Warriors -- without Mullin involved -- then reached out to Gilbert Arenas and Elton Brand, free agents at the time.Neither signed with the Warriors, but eventually they acquired Corey Maggette to a five-year contract worth 50 million. Multiple sources have said over the years Mullin wasn't in on that deal.In September 2008, Warriors guard Monta Ellis sustained a left ankle injury while riding a moped. Ellis initially told the organization he sustained the injury playing basketball but came clean a few days later.Mullin pushed Cohan and Rowell for a lighter touch when it came to Ellis' punishment. He suggested to Cohan and Rowell a 1 million fine, with the possibility of that increasing if Ellis didn't adhere to a strict rehabilitation regimen. Mullin was wary of levying a stiff punishment to Ellis because he didn't want to alienate a player who only months earlier had signed a six-year, 66 million extension.Cohan and Rowell felt otherwise. They hit Ellis with a 30-game suspension and a fine of 3 million. In addition, the Warriors continued to maintain that they could void Ellis' entire contract should he not recover fully from the injury. The disagreement between CohanRowell and Mullin may have never come to light except Rowell went public with the dispute when Ellis' punishment was announced in mid-October"Chris Mullin made it perfectly clear to both Mr. Cohan and myself that he didn't think this was a big deal at the beginning, and we happen to think it's a very big deal," Rowell said at the time. "We happen to think that it's a big deal for our fans, it's a big deal for our season ticket-holders, it's a big deal for our business partners, it's a big deal for the Warriors' organization."That statement brought the disconnect between Rowell and Mullin into the public eye, and from there Mullin was further isolated within the organization. Less than three weeks later -- in late October -- Warriors coach Don Nelson was given a two-year contract extension worth 12 million.Mullin and Nelson were both entering the final year of their contracts, so the Nelson extension was just more handwriting on the wall for Mullin. It was Mullin who had reached out to Nelson to become the Warriors' coach before 2006-07, and there was a perception that the two were a package deal.Not at all. As Mullin was being pushed aside, Nelson and the Warriors had been hammering out an agreement that would keep Nelson on the bench through 2011.In early November, the stakes were raised even further when the Warriors fired assistant general manager Pete D'Alessandro, Mullin's long-time associate and confidante. Though the specifics of D'Alessandro's firing never came to light, word was that Rowell and Cohan believed D'Alessandro was leaking information to the media.When Mullin was asked at the time about D'Alessandro's firing and what occurred, Mullin said: "I can't talk about that." On the day the Warriors fired D'Allessandro, they named Riley the team's new assistant GM.It was apparent by the time D'Alessandro was fired that Mullin wasn't in charge any longer and that things weren't going smoothly in the front office. But that became crystal clear in mid-November when the Warriors announced they were signing forward Stephen Jackson to a contract extension. The extension was for three years and 27 million, and Mullin had nothing at all to do with the decision.Jackson, without an agent, negotiated the deal with Cohan and Rowell, and Mullin learned about all of it through Jackson, himself. As the 2008-09 season wore on, Mullin spent less and less time in the Warriors' offices and more time on scouting on the road.Mullin was officially let go in May 2009, and he hasn't been around since.It looks, however, like that will be changing.