The Golden State Warriors are for sale and Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison has already made it well known he wants to buy the team.
The Warriors said Monday they have hired Galatioto Sports Partners, or GSP, to handle current owner Chris Cohan’s sale of the franchise and that the company would serve as the Warriors’ exclusive financial adviser throughout the process.
For the basketball-crazy East Bay, this news couldn’t have come soon enough. Fans know what the atmosphere can be for this franchise: electric, just like it was for the team’s rare playoff run in 2007.
Supporters still turn out by the thousands for Golden State’s games even if the performances have often been rather depressing.
Coach Don Nelson said Monday he doesn’t expect to be around long under new ownership.
“I’m 70 years old. I have one more year now and then I’m going to retire,” he said before Golden State’s home game against Phoenix. “I have a year left on my contract. I’m going to fulfil my contract. What happens, happens.”
Nelson said before this season began he would donate a year of service to the franchise free of charge as a way to repay Cohan – but that has changed.
While Cohan hadn’t given any indication he planned to put the franchise up for sale right away, there had been thinking that he would certainly listen if an incredible offer was made.
Ellison told financial analysts in late January he was trying to buy the team but said, “unfortunately you can’t have a hostile takeover of a basketball team.”
Also earlier in January, Ellison sat courtside to watch the Warriors play LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the building boasting his company’s name – Oracle Arena.
Ellison already owns BMW Oracle Racing, the American sailing syndicate that won the America’s Cup off Valencia, Spain, last month.
At the Cavs-Warriors game, one fan in the upper area of the lower level held a sign reading, “Dear Larry Ellison, please buy this team. Thanks, the Warriors fans.”
The Warriors said they wouldn’t comment further until an agreement or transaction with a buyer is reached.
Cohan clearly decided the timing was finally right to part ways with the Warriors, who were second-to-last in the powerful Western Conference at 19-50 and had lost eight of 10 games heading into the game with the Suns.
Cohan has had financial problems, too. Earlier this month, the Warriors announced across-the-board discounts for season ticket holders for next season.
In 2007, the Internal Revenue Service said Cohan owed more than $160 million in back income taxes and penalties from the 1998 sale of a cable television company.
There are many who believe Golden State has been mismanaged for years and that new leadership is long overdue for a club that has reached the playoffs only once since 1994.
Last fall, disgruntled swingman Stephen Jackson made it publicly known he wanted out and eventually got his wish in a November trade to Charlotte.
Jackson was a key figure in the Warriors ending their 12-year playoff drought in 2007, just a few months after he arrived in the Bay Area in a trade with the Pacers.
“As you know,” Jackson said, “this organisation’s unpredictable. Very unpredictable.”
There was also the strangely timed departure of Chris Mullin last spring. Mullin, the beloved former player turned top executive, apparently had lost his authority months before the team parted ways with him in May.
The constant drama surrounding this organisation apparently caused other players to question whether they wanted to play for owner Cohan, including star player Monta Ellis.
Some Warriors players say they’re just going to see what happens.
“There’s going to be a lot of speculation, a lot of talk, but for the most part, until a decision is made we’re just going to go about our business,” rookie guard Stephen Curry said. “I don’t know what to be worried about yet. … We’re going to pay attention in the summer because it might affect us down the road.”
The Warriors have shown positive signs in recent years but this season has been rough all around – from injuries to long losing streaks. The 2008 squad barely missed the postseason despite winning 48 games, most by a non-playoff NBA team in a quarter-century.
Team president Robert Rowell said he’s committed to fielding a competitive team. Nelson and general manager Larry Riley have hinted their young players will be all the better with a year’s more experience.
Early in his tenure as controlling owner, Cohan sued Nelson when he accepted a job with the New York Knicks after leaving Golden State in February 1995.
“It was never bitter,” Nelson said after he was hired back in August 2006. “I had some of Chris’ money, and he wanted it. (The dispute) ended with that, and it’s been a great relationship ever since.”
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