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Q&A: Tim Kawakami [Bay Area News Group]: Rowell, Mullin, and Nellie- The Role of the Media (1/12/09)

In our last segment Tim broke down the roles Rowell, Mullin, Nellie, and Riley each played in creating the current state of the Golden State Warriors.

Plenty of Points about  Bay Area Sports

After the jump Tim talks about his interactions with Rowell, Mullin, and Nellie and assess if this plays a role in his evaluations of them.

Atma Brother #1 (Golden State of Mind): Don Nelson seems to have a lot critics in the local and national media who if not explicitly have not so subtly implied that he should be fired, isn't the right coach for a young roster (who is?), and has stabbed his buddy Chris Mullin the back. His positive coaching efforts and historic NBA resume are rarely even acknowledged.

Mullin seems to have a lot of fans in the media who rarely point out his failings or criticize his work, despite being the VP/ GM of this losing team for over 4 years now. He has a somewhat martyr front office status and gets respect for his tenure with the Warriors.

Robert Rowell gets the hilarious "BUY TICKETS! BUY TICKETS! BUY TICKETS!" mocking and doesn't seem to be regarded that highly by the local media. His ascension to President of the Warriors can be characterized as being incredibly curious given his credentials.

After a short moratorium beginning with the Mullin/ Mike Montgomery era, the media is back to exposing Chris Cohan's complete incompetence as the 15 year owner of the Golden State Warriors.

What role do you think (if any) these sentiments are fueled by how each of these individuals interact with members of the media (e.g. freezing them out, manipulating them, being nice or accommodating)? In other words does it ever get personal? Also, how do these individuals interact with the media currently given their recent characterizations?

Tim Kawakami: Tremendous question. I can say specifically, for myself, that Robert Rowell and I have never had cross words and he has generally been available when I've asked to speak to him. Yet I've been very, very, very critical of him. All personal? I don't think so. You make the call.

I have a pretty good relationship with Mullin and have (mostly) defended him over the years, especially now, yet I've seen and heard from him in recent months just about as rarely as everybody else: Almost not at all. Personal? Your call. Don't think so.

Nelson's another matter, since he's the coach and is league-mandated to speak regularly, which he does, with alternating levels of charm and crustiness. I've always liked talking to Don and he occasionally has liked talking to me, mostly because, I think, I ask him very specific basketball questions which he likes to answer--because he's the best techical NBA coach I've ever covered, including Phil Jackson.

But I've been extremely tough on Nelson recently. He hasn't loved it and has said so. Basically, that's the outline for me saying: At least personally, I can't say that personal issues have colored the coverage.

What has happened is that this thing has blown up among Nelson, Rowell, Mullin and Cohan. The media stuff is just a product of that, sorry to say. If I'm not trying to decide how it went wrong and who's mostly to blame, then I don't think I'm doing my job. In fact, if I'm not trying to make judgements on a 11-28 season, then I'm running away from my job.

You properly point out that Mullin has been in charge of the basketball decisions for four seasons, and partly was responsible for some of the things that have gone wrong this season, too.

I'd point out that Cohan has been in charge for 15 seasons, with Rowell by his side for most of them. Of those 15, only two were above .500. Mullin was the guy running the show for those two (and two losing seasons and part of this one), with Nelson's assistance, and Mullin was the guy who traded for Baron Davis.

If you're the guy in charge for the ONLY two successful seasons out of 15... I give more credence to the success than the two-plus seasons of non-success, since I think we can agree that non-success is the usual Cohan/Rowell result, if left to their own devices.

I'd also point out that Nelson has had this cycle before--decent success, good run, antsiness, politicking, absolute detonation--many times in his career, including HERE with Webber.

Is my criticism influenced by personal relationships? Maybe only because I know that, even privately, Mullin has never tried to dodge blame for the decisions that turned out wrong. I know that his moves have always had a logic to them, even when I disagreed with the logic.

And I know, publicly and privately, Rowell and Nelson have frequently ducked responsibility even for stuff they've clearly done and done all kinds of illogical stuff. I mean, is there a worse decision that giving Stephen Jackson that three-year extension? Everybody in the league was shaking their heads at that one. That was not Mullin. 

If you're the guy who lands the best player in recent franchise history, hires the best coach, gets undermined by that coach, and accepts blame when it's fair... and the other major parties are doing all of the ugly stuff at a rapid rate... I'm going to blame the other guys--Rowell, Cohan and Nelson--who have a pattern and are following it.


All of us at GSoM wanted to thank Tim for his always candid and thoughtful responses. Definitely make his blog Talking Points a regular visit. Whether you agree or disagree with his takes, Tim's a fun read and always knows how to get a good conversation going.

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