The boos from the home crowd rained down on Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob on the night of March 19, 2012. It was supposed to be a night to celebrate the career of Hall of Famer Chris Mullin, who was having his jersey retired at Oracle Arena. Instead, it turned into an infamous evening for all the wrong reasons.
Six days earlier, Lacob pulled the trigger on a trade that sent fan-favorite and team centerpiece Monta Ellis to the Milwaukee Bucks in a multi-player deal. In return, the Warriors received oft-injured center Andrew Bogut who was nursing an ankle problem, and would not play a single game for the rest of the season.
To add insult to injury, the Warriors, with an 18-24 record, were far out of the playoff picture at that point. Because their draft pick for next season was top-7 protected, they employed the controversial strategy of “tanking” in order to keep their selection.
When Lacob and business partner Peter Guber bought the Warriors in July of 2010 for a record $450 million, they envisioned turning a perennial losing franchise around. They made moves, took risks and hoped the fans and supporters would understand. Unfortunately, on this particular night, everything came crashing down.
“I got it, I got it” said Mullin, wrapping his arm around Lacob’s shoulder and temporarily turning the boos into cheers. “As the greatest fans in the NBA, as everyone stated, sometimes change is inevitable, and it’s gonna work out just fine—with your support and patience…this thing is going in the right direction. I’ve got great confidence in Joe, (coach) Mark Jackson, and everything will work out just fine.”
As Mullin departed, the fans continued the onslaught, mercilessly voicing their displeasure at the owner’s expense. It wasn’t until Rick Barry took the mic and delivered a harsh admonition that finally quieted the crowd enough for Lacob to finish his presentation — sending Mullin and his family on a vacation to Hawaii.
On this night, Lacob wished he could have gone with him.