SBD/June 22, 2011/Franchises

New Warriors Owners Part Ways With Team President Robert Rowell

Rowell spent 16 seasons with the Warriors, serving as President for eight

The Warriors yesterday “effectively fired team President Robert Rowell, a key figure for the franchise during a dark stretch when Chris Cohan owned the team,” according to Rusty Simmons of the S.F. CHRONICLE. The Warriors said Rowell “elected to step down.” He will remain with the team “on an interim basis to assist" co-Owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber in the search for a replacement. Rowell served as team President for eight seasons, and was with the Warriors “in some capacity for 16.” Simmons notes Rowell, once a “powerful voice with Golden State, had been muted, especially since" Lacob and Guber were approved to buy the team in November. Warriors GM Larry Riley is the “last significant executive from Cohan’s regime.” Lacob said in a statement, “We spent a lot of time evaluating this decision and believe that now is the appropriate time for the new ownership to put our complete stamp on the entire organization” (S.F. CHRONICLE, 6/22). CSNBAYAREA.com’s Ray Ratto wrote because Lacob added "what seems to be" two GMs, Jerry West and Bob Myers, to “the one he already had, there was little for Rowell to do outside the selling of tickets and control of the marketing efforts.” With a lockout "looming that many believe could drastically curtail or even cancel the season, Rowell became expendable.” Ratto noted no successor “has been named, but one suspects that either Lacob or one of the other owners will take over the business side of the operation.” That announcement is expected “under separate cover in the next few days or weeks,” but no timetable was indicated (CSNBAYAREA.com, 6/21). Lacob and Guber said that a "search for Rowell's replacement will begin immediately" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 6/21).

CHARTING A NEW COURSE: Lacob said, “This is a top-to-bottom remaking of the franchise. We have tremendous talent with great experience and great energy. They will succeed. I think it’s one of the best basketball operations staffs in the NBA.” In San Jose, Marcus Thompson II writes Riley is “the undisputed triggerman, a decision Lacob acknowledged took him a bit of strategizing.” Riley had the “demeanor and focus Lacob wanted atop the staff,” and because Riley is “winding down his career, Lacob could be sure the 66-year-old wouldn’t operate for selfish reasons or be bothered by rising stars in the industry” (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 6/22).

TIME FOR A CHANGE: In Oakland, Monte Poole writes nobody “did more over the past decade to influence group morale shape the general direction of the franchise” than Rowell. Poole: “So if new ownership is committed to creating a New Warriors Way, Rowell had to go.” Rowell’s departure is “another indication -- perhaps the strongest yet -- that Lacob intends to make good on his vow that his Warriors will not be the same old Warriors.” Rowell was “a marketing star,” who found ways to “package and sell an often ugly product.” But “suffice it to say he was infinitely better at making money than he was at winning friends” (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 6/22).  In San Jose, Tim Kawakami wrote, "Lacob should’ve dumped Rowell long ago -- not 11 months after taking over -- but at least he’s done it now. … This is a good day for the Warriors” (MERCURYNEWS.com, 6/21). CSN Bay Area’s Ratto said, “I think it happened a little earlier than anybody expected because I think the NBA is looking at a lockout and there really is no point in having a guy run the business side of an operation when there isn't going to be any business in all likelihood.” CSN Bay Area’s Barry Thompkins: “I think it’s addition by subtraction. I don't think so much it was a question of if, but a question of when.” CSN's Greg Papa: “There’s been a real public outcry to get rid of Bobby Rowell” (“Chronicle Live,” Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 6/21).

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