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Ball Don't Lie

Warriors part ways with Robert Rowell, end Cohan era for good

Eric Freeman
Ball Don't Lie

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When Joe Lacob and Peter Guber bought the Warriors late last summer, an entire fanbase rejoiced not for anything special about them, but just for the fact that neither man was Chris Cohan, long-time scourge of all free-thinking basketball fans in the Bay Area. They represented new life for the franchise.

So it came as something as a shock when Lacob and Guber kept Robert Rowell on as team president. Rowell made more decisions and carried out more plans than anyone in the organization, including those executed for Cohan by proxy. Given that Cohan preferred to stay out of the public eye, Rowell was essentially the face of the business side of the Warriors. Why, exactly, would new owners want to have any connection to him?

Perhaps because they planned on pushing him out gradually. On Tuesday, Rowell resigned as team president. From the Associated Press:

Warriors owner Joe Lacob announced Tuesday that Rowell was leaving to pursue other business endeavors. Rowell will assist Lacob and co-owner Peter Guber in the transition.

Rowell spent 16 seasons with the Warriors, including the past eight as president. The club has had success filling Oracle Arena during that time but has only made the playoffs once during his tenure.

"Resigned" is really just a kind word for being asked not to stay on, because it's fairly obvious that Lacob and Guber didn't want him around any longer than necessary. Rowell likely only stayed on as long as he did to help with the transition, not because he was still a valued part of the future of the franchise.

His tenure will be looked back upon as a massive failure. Though the Warriors drew and kept fans consistently well throughout the Cohan era, the product on the court was nearly always atrocious, and any moderate success (e.g. the two "We Believe" seasons) proved short-lived. Rowell did a nice job as a promoter and marketer, but he had no idea how to foster the kind of culture that creates winning basketball teams. In other words, he was a solid businessman who never quite learned that sports franchises can't be run purely as businesses. He alienated former employees, put his faith in people ill-equipped to help the team, and generally made too many decisions about players and coaches without considering the on-court effects. Things were so bad that Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News once listed Rowell's 25 fireable offenses, and the list was far from thorough.

Whatever the case, Rowell's ouster and the installation of Mark Jackson as head coach have officially ended the Cohan era. For better or worse, everything that happens on the court for the Warriors must act as a reflection of what Lacob and Guber have decided to do with the franchise. Any blame leveled at Cohan, or the mess that existed when they took over, will seem like an excuse rather than an explanation.

The honeymoon is over. The future looks quite hazy, with or without Rowell.

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