It's been an excellent week for ex-NBA star Chris Mullin. On Monday, the Dream Team member, Golden State Warriors great, and St. John's standout was named as an inductee to the Basketball Hall of Fame, and he had the pleasure of being honored at that night's less-than-pleasurable NCAA tournament final in Houston. As a player, Mullin now has no more garlands to win: He has reached the height of individual accomplishment in the sport.
Of course, Mullin has done more than just play basketball. For five seasons, he served as the Warriors' lead basketball personnel man before being pushed out by a cadre of franchise bigwigs that included head coach Don Nelson, team owner Chris Cohan and team president Robert Rowell. While Mullin was by no means a stellar GM -- he did give Derek Fisher(notes) a massive contract to jack up terrible shots for a lottery team, after all -- he steadily improved over his tenure and is generally considered to have been treated unfairly by the Golden State braintrust.
However, with new ownership installed in Oakland, Mullin may have a chance to reconnect with the franchise with a potential jersey retirement ceremony. That would be fun, right? From Matt Steinmetz at CSNBayArea.com (via PBT):
New owner Joe Lacob seems to be going out of his way to make it happen. Just hours after Mullin's announcement was made public, Lacob called Mullin to offer his congratulations and to begin planting the seeds about the organization honoring Mullin in some way.
And Mullin indicated late last week that he's receptive to re-opening the lines of communication with the team. As most Warriors followers know, Mullin's tenure as general manager didn't end well and left a bad taste.
Lacob is intent on fixing that, and all but assured that at some point next season Mullin's No. 17 jersey will hang from the Oracle rafters along with those Warriors already honored: Tom Meschery, Alvin Attles, Nate Thurmond, Rick Barry and Wilt Chamberlain.
If you're curious why most Warriors fans have accepted Lacob as a potential franchise savior despite the fact that the team has shown no substantive improvement this season, it's because he's shown a knack for public relations and basic positive human interaction that Cohan never displayed in roughly 15 years in charge. It may seem like a no-brainer to retire the jersey of a recently installed Hall of Famer, but these are the kinds of minor improvements that make fans feel better about the direction of the team.
Yet while this is a nice step in the right direction, more changes will have to come for the relationship between Mullin and the Warriors to be truly repaired. For instance, did you know that Mullin's replacement, Larry Riley -- handpicked by the men who deposed him -- is still making the team's personnel decisions? While Mullin's specific beef may not be with Riley, it's tough to believe he'll be perfectly fine with him still holding that job when his jersey is retired. Now, Riley may still hold this job only because Lacob took over just before this season started, but the new ownership group has also not ruled out that the incumbent will hold on to his job. With a lockout looming, that may only increase the chances that the franchise will stay relatively put.
To be clear, retiring Mullin's jersey would be a great first step to repairing the relationship, and Lacob should keep Riley on board if he thinks he's the best man for the job. But there are complicated emotions at play here, and one gesture is unlikely to fix every aspect of the fractured bond between Mullin and Golden State. These wounds need more than just time to heal.