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.

A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun


A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun

I’m liking this 2017 so far. Then again, after 2016, nearly any year would be an improvement.

Just this last weekend we got a flat-earth scandal that turned into a mock-up about media self-importance and fake news (yay Kyrie Irving and his impish sense of satire!).

We got the overblown Russell-Hates-Kevin narrative, and the faux Russell-Secretly-Loves-Kevin counternarrative, all because we are stunningly attracted to meaningless and utterly contrived drama (yay our ability to B.S. ourselves!).

We got the NBA All-Star Game ripped for having no defense even though last year’s game was, if anything, worse (yay short attention span!).

We got the Boogie Cousins trade and the national revulsion of all the thought processes the Sacramento Kings put into this perpetually rolling disaster (yay making Boogie and Vivek Ranadive household names!).

And now we got the Great Sutton United Pie-Fixing Scandal. Yeah, pie-fixing. Hell never felt so fun.

So here’s the deal. Sutton United, a very small fry in English soccer, got to the fifth round of the FA Cup, a competition in which all the clubs in England are commingled and play each other until one team remains. The big clubs almost always win, so any time a small club goes deep, it’s a big deal.

Anyway, Sutton went deeper in the competition than nearly anyone in the last century, a charming development given that it is such a small club that it had a stadium caretaker, goalie coach and backup goalie all in one massive fellow, a 46-year-old guy named Wayne Shaw. Shaw became the globular embodiment of the entire Sutton Experience, a jolly lark for everyone involved and especially when he ate a pie on the bench in the final minutes of Sutton’s Cup-exiting loss to Arsenal.

And now he’s been eased into resigning his jobs with the club, because – and this is so very British – there were betting shops taking action on whether he would in fact eat a pie on the bench, and he either did or did not tip off his pals that he was going to chow down on television.

He did eat the pie. His pals collected on their bets. The sport’s governing body opened an investigation into market manipulation by gambling – which is hilarious given that no fewer than 10 gambling establishments have advertising deals with English soccer clubs. Shaw was invited to quit to kill the story, and he took the hint.

Hey, dreams die all the time. But it’s still pie-fixing. Let that rattle around your head for a minute. Pie-fixing. Not match-fixing. Not point-shaving. Pie-fixing.

Now how can you not love this year?

Sure, it sucks for Shaw, but it serves as a series of cautionary tales for athletes around the world.

* Gambling is everywhere, and every time you inch toward it, you dance on the third rail.

* If you want to help your friends, give them cash.

* This is a horribly delicious way to lose your gig.

* And finally, fun in the 21st century isn’t ever truly fun because someone in a suit and a snugly-placed stick is going to make sure you pay full retail for that fun.

But it is nice to know that something that has never happened before is now part of our year. Pie-fixing is a thing now, as silly in its way as Irving’s flat-earth narrative was. And as we steer away from normal games as being too run-of-the-mill-fuddy-duddy entertainment, we have replaced them with sideshows.

Or do you forget how many people complained Saturday and Sunday that the dunk contest wasn’t interesting enough? How stupid is that?

Lots. Lots of stupid. But against pie-tin-shaped planets and pies turned into betting coups, how can it possibly compare?

We chase a lot of idiotic narratives in our sporting lives. The great What Will The Patriots Do To Roger Goodell story died like the old dog it was. We still try to flog Warriors-Thunder as a rivalry in search of better TV ratings when all the obvious evidence is that it is no such thing unless you think a couple that broke up nine months ago is still a solid story. We have Bachelor fantasy leagues, for God’s sake.

This would leave most normal folks in despair, thus matching their everyday experiences, but yin meets yang, and every time it looks like we are all barrel-rolling into the sun, we get Irving, and then we get Wayne Shaw.

In short, 2017 is going to be fun of grand surprises for us all. I look forward to the day President Trump tries to fete the Patriots and only gets to Skype with Bob Kraft and the equipment guys who midwifed DeflateGate, and Mark Davis in Las Vegas, just to see if he can get a P.F. Chang’s into the Bellagio.

Why not? This is sport’s year-long tribute to sketch comedy, and evidently everyone is signing on enthusiastically to replace lessons of morality and honor and equality and dignity and sportsmanship with slackened jaws and belly laughs.

So yay sports! Or as it is clearly becoming, A Night At The Improv.

Patriots win one for the ages, but where does it rank?

Patriots win one for the ages, but where does it rank?

The price of watching Roger Goodell being booed back to the Bronze Age is a subtle but real one, and one that people will feel very dearly soon enough.

The last great cathartic Super Bowl is now done, with the New England Patriots winning the brilliant and decisive battle to be sports’ new evil empire. In doing so, it rendered Goodell a permanent and risible punch line in National Football League history, the mall cop who wanted the death penalty for littering, and in the words of the song “got what he wanted but he lost what he had.”

True, $40 million a year can make the dissolution of your public persona a reasonably decent tradeoff, but we lost the argument about who won his windmill tilt with the Patriots. It’s done, and he is now permanently and irrevocably a figure of ridicule.

But that’s not the only debating point America lost Sunday night, and while you wouldn’t think it given how much time we are willing to shouting at each other, quality arguments are not easily replaced.

We have almost surely lost the mindless debate about the best quarterback ever, because there is nothing anyone can bring up that the words “Tom Brady” cannot rebut except calling his own plays, and since that is no longer allowed in football, it is a silly asterisk to apply.

We have almost surely lost the equally silly shouter about the best coach ever. Bill Belichick is defiantly not fun, but he has built, improved and bronzed an organizational model that is slowly swallowing the rest of the sport. That and five trophies makes him the equal if not better of the short list of Paul Brown, George Halas, Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh and Tom Landry.

Plus, Belichick locked up the most absurd response to a question in coaching history Monday when he said, “As great as today feels . . . we're five weeks behind the other teams for the 2017 season.” Even allowing for Gregg Popovich in-game interviews, the so-grim-he-could-make-a-robot-cry worship-the-process response has now become a cliché. If 2017 prep was so important, he should have skipped yesterday’s game, and he definitely should have chosen not to waste so much time on the trophy stand after the game when training camp drills needed to be scheduled.

Oh, and DeflateGate died. Dead. No zombie possibilities here.

We do have a meatheaded argument ahead of us about which championship in the last year is the best, which can be settled here.

1. Leicester City, because 5,000-1 is 5,000-1, and the whole world understands that. Plus, there was invaluable three-month buildup that engaged non-soccer fans.

2. Chicago Cubs, because 108 years is 108 years.

3. New England Patriots, because . . . well, I don’t have to explain it unless you have no useful memory span. “Down 25 In The Third Quarter” is the new “Down 3-1.”

4. Cleveland Cavaliers, because they slayed the first unbeatable Warrior team by coming from 3-1 down, and even as a silver medalist, it will always be an internet meme, which is what passes for memorable in our decrepit culture.

5. (tie) Villanova basketball and Clemson football in a tie, because they were essentially the same great game.

7. The Pittsburgh Penguins, because the Stanley Cup Final was devoid of drama or high moments, and only 14:53 of overtime. Feh.

But everything else is settled, and this Super Bowl will not be topped for a long time. Our current cycle of absurd championships is almost surely going to end soon, because “Down 3-1” has happened twice in eight months (three times, if you count Warriors over Thunder), and the bar has now been placed well beyond reasonable clearing.

Indeed, the only thing left is for a championship team to spontaneously combust on the award stand. But if they do so and ignite Roger Goodell along the way, that would be an ending America would cheerfully endorse.

But that also isn’t an argument any more, and yes, that includes Gary Bettman.