Ratto: Warriors Ownership Primer for Joe Lacob


Ratto: Warriors Ownership Primer for Joe Lacob

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber will appear on Chronicle Live on Tuesday, Nov. 16.
Ray Ratto

Because he didnt ask, and because he never would, we will now tell Joe Lacob how to run his new business.


Thats right. Dont. Lacob may own his share of the Golden State Warriors, and he may be the on-site grand fromage, but the history of owners who have been mega-involved in the operation of the teams theyve owned and succeeded doing so is as follows:

George Halas, and he started out as a player.

Curly Lambeau, and he started out as a player.

Connie Mack, and he started out as a player.

Mario Lemieux, and he started out as a player.

Bill Veeck, and he started out as a child.

Al Davis, and he started out as a coach.

If there are others, we dont care. We made the point. A sports owners expertise is not on the production side, because most owners have as their areas of expertise something other than displaying or assembling athletic talent for money. Mostly they either were born rich or became rich through business acumen, and thats where their focus should be. When it isnt, well, hilarity ensues.

So far, since reaching agreement with the magnificently popular Chris Cohan to take the team off his hands at nearly four times the amount Cohan paid for it, Lacob has been around to see, if not facilitate:

- A new logo and uniforms.

- A new coach.

So far, so good. The logo is simple, almost elegant in its minimalism. It doesnt need words around it, but thats a quibble. The new coach, Keith Smart, is, 6-3 but thats a small sample size. Mostly, he isnt Don Nelson, so that takes care of that.

But now that his name appears on the checks, Lacob has to fight the natural temptation most contemporary owners do -- to vote his stock on things he cannot truly understand, like the things he pays Smart and Larry Riley to do.

In other words, he needs to have the strength to turn the basketball operation over to the basketball department. He needs to findretain the smart marketing people to market, and the financial people to finance, and the advertising experts to findcreate advertising.

And then sit back with a quality cigar and a few beverages that make frothy heads when you pour them into a properly chilled glass and enjoy what Reggie Jackson used to call the magnitude of me.

In other words, Lacob needs to hire people, and then watch them go. Thats how the smart owners have always done it. Hell, its how Lemieux does it in Pittsburgh, and he was one of the 10 best hockey players ever. If he can resist the urge to coach and general manage and market, et. al., then Lacob can.

Then Lacob must. It is the only road to owner salvation. Everything else is failure of one sort or another.

In fact, if Lacob needs a primer, a quick call to Wally Haas, the son of the late As owner would do it. So would a call to Bob Lurie, who bought the Giants in 1976. They were guys who understood that the whole idea of owning isnt to show everyone you own the joint. Its in finding people who can make the joint worth owning.

Walter Haas method of running the As was simple: He was never around unless things were going to bad. He would tour the clubhouse and make sure the players were doing all right. He would ask the general manager and manager if they needed anything they werent currently provided. He would sign checks. And then he went and ran the business he did know Levi Strauss.

Lurie had a bit more fan in him, but he wasnt in the room on draft day, and he didnt make trades, and eventually he found the management team that worked best Al Rosen and Roger Craig. He didnt do a lot of publicity for himself, and he didnt try to get people think he was the mastermind. He did try to get someone else to build a new stadium for his team, which obviously didnt work, and he was underestimated by many smart-assed media types (hello, me!), but as owners go, he was much respected and ended up sane and happy in the end.

That is Lacobs safest and wisest path. Whether he takes it or not is anyones guess. He may decide that Davis is the best role model, but he never coached on the pro level. He might decide Jerry Jones is the best model, but Jones hasnt won anything since the players Jimmy Johnson assembled dissolved. He might want to be Danny Snyder, whos never won anything at all. He might even want to be Donald Sterling, who lurches between hyper-engagement and complete disinterest, leaving the day-to-day unpleasantness to suited underlings.

There are lots of role models for disaster (and youll notice we left Cohan alone here; he sold the team, thereby mastering the one desirable skill he really had after all these years leaving). They all include pretending expertise in areas in which the owner in question lacked expertise.

And there is but one way out the smart way. Assessing smart people by either knowing them or knowing where to find them, and letting their do their jobs. Oh, he can be in the room when the decisions are made, I guess; hes paying the rent after all. But he should only vote the way the Vice-President does in case of a tie in the Senate.

So now hes got the gig. Were about to see whether it was a good idea or not. Because, after all, well be his most important resource. We dispense wisdom without charging a consultants fee, and weve seen owners come and go for eons. Most of them thought they were smarter than they were, and ended up wealthier and more bitter for the experience.

Lacob can thank us later. Weve got nothing but time -- and advice.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

Frank Deford's longform storytelling made him worthy of our attention


Frank Deford's longform storytelling made him worthy of our attention

Frank Deford’s death over the weekend did not mark the end of longform sportswriting as we knew it; he had long ago become part of the electronic commentariat that has reduced longform’s place in the public’s attention span.

But there is still longform writing and storytelling to be found in many places, and it is still worthwhile. It has more production value, as the TV folks like to blather, and the words have to fight for their place between the cracks left by the pictures and the mutated graphics, but longform lives, and it should, lest we all agree as one people to further desiccate that attention span like a grapefruit left in the sun.

Deford’s death, though, reminds of when longform was the zenith of the storytelling art. It could, and still can, give you access and depth and breadth that a TV crew simply could not, and cannot. Even extended TV features are by their very nature so contrived by all the equipment that nothing is natural, nothing is a surprise, and the act of writing is almost an afterthought.

Deford knew this. He more than merely dabbled in TV himself, playing the wizened old raconteur who was as much character in his pieces as storyteller. He was also a star and a starmaker with The National, a daily sports network in newspaper form that was long on talent and ideas but short on delivery and distribution. It lasted 17 months, until mid-1991, but it led to grander attempts decades later, and could if you squint your eyes hard enough be the natural parent of Grantland and The Ringer and Vice and SB Nation and dozens of others – all bigger ideas, positioned in the post-typing world. Some lasted, more didn’t, but capitalism is like that – making fuel to keep the fires burning and the engines churning.

Deford could have thrived in such a world, to be sure. He was not, in the hideous phrase, “a man of his time.” Indeed, he was a crossover figure years ago in ways that other longform writers attempt to resist even now. They want to be Deford at the height of his powers at a time when the instruments for their gift are either dying or veering away from anything that hits the 600-word mark.

But his passing did not kill the art of clever writing and incisive storytelling. There are far too many people who can do that still, even if the market for their gifts is neither as pronounced nor as eager for the product as it once was. It did remind us not only that he was a giant, but that there are still giants among us should we deign to take the time to seek them.

Thus, Deford’s death marked his passing but not the thing that made him worthy of our attention. Storytelling, longform and otherwise, remains the heart of why this is still worthwhile to a culture, and when the generation his work spawned starts to die off, I suspect we’ll still be saying the same thing then. Notebooks are smartphones, photographs are streams, but the human eye and ear and hand still remain pre-eminent.

That is, until the robots take over, at which point reading won’t be worth it.

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

You thought you were done worrying about the Raiders. You thought the votes were in, the moving vans booked for three years down the road, and all gnashing and sharpening of teeth was over. You thought you were free.

Then those buttinsky-come-latelies from St. Louis decided to rear their litigious heads, and now you find yourselves slipping back into that desperate-hope world from which no one escapes.

It seems the city and its regional sports authority has decided to sue the National Football League and its 32 semi-independent duchies over the relocation of the Rams 15 months ago because, and you’ll like this one, the league allegedly did not follow its own relocation rules when it moved the team.

As you know, there is no such thing as a rule if everyone governed by the rule decided unanimously to ignore the rule. This doctrine falls under the general heading of, “We’re billionaires, try and stop us.”

But all lawsuits have a common denominator, and that is that there is money at the end of the rainbow. St. Louis is claiming it is going to miss out on approximately $100 million in net proceeds (read: cash) and has decided that the NFL and especially their good pal Stan Kroenke is going to have to pay for permission to do what they have already done -- specifically, leave.

Because the suit was filed in St. Louis, the benefits of home field advantage apply, and the league is likely to have to reinflate their lawyers for some exciting new billable hours.

As to whether it turns into a windfall for the jilted Missourians, well, as someone who has known lawyers, I would list them as prohibitive underdogs. But there is nuisance value here, which brings us to Oakland.

The city and county, as we know, did not put its best shoe forward in trying to lure the Raiders into staying or the other 31 owners into rejecting the team’s pleas for geographical relief. By that, we mean that the city and county did not fall all over itself to meet the league’s typically extortionate demands.

But they did play angry enough to start snipping about the 2019 part of the Raiders’ 3-More-Coliseum-Years plan, and they are threatening to sue over about $80K in unpaid parking fees, so filing their own breach-of-rules lawsuit might be a possibility.

Because, hey, what’s the point of sounding like a nuisance if you can’t actually become one?

By now, it is clear that everyone in SuitWorld got what it needed out of the Raiders’ move. The city and county could concentrate on guiding the A’s into activity on their own new stadium. The team could go where Mark Davis has been agitating for it to go for at least three years – somewhere else. The state of Nevada could find a place for that $750 million that was burning a hole in its casino vault. And the league went to a market that it, at first reluctantly and then enthusiastically, decided should be its own.

The fans? Oh, please. Who cares about them? To the NFL, and to all corporations in all walks of business, folks are just walking wallets.

But for some cash? Well, climb on board, suckers. The gravy train is pulling out on Track 3.

Nobody is fool enough to think the Raiders would be forced to return. Hell, even St. Louis isn’t asking for the Rams back. They just want to get paid for the money they probably banked on in the good old days before Stan Kroenke decided to head west.

And that would doubtless be Oakland’s stance as well if. Now the circumstances are slightly different, in that St. Louis worked harder to keep the Rams than Oakland did to keep the Raiders. St. Louis scared up $350 million toward new digs for the Rams, well short of what Kroenke would have accepted, while Oakland said it could get its hands on some infrastructure money and no more.

But Mayor Libby Schaaf complained in her relocation post mortem that the league didn’t follow its own guidelines (yay correlation as causation!), maybe with an eye toward throwing a few lawyers into the fire to see how long it would burn.

There is not yet any indication that the city and county are going that route (and the silence may simply mean that they are sick of the Raiders’ saga as everyone else seems to be), but if they do, well, don’t freak out that the team might be forced to return.

Except, of course, in that place where migraines start. Dragging this back up is a bit like the phantom pain amputees feel -- but hey, people will do a lot for a bit of court-ordered cash. Anyone who has ever watched Judge Judy will understand.