Posted May 11 2009 10:43PM
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Although Chris Mullin apparently stopped running the Golden State Warriors several months ago, this confusing NBA club didn't bother to make it official until Monday.
The Warriors finally cut ties with Mullin, their top basketball executive, nearly a year after the former star player seemingly lost all authority in a power struggle within the tumultuous Warriors.
Mullin, the Warriors' executive vice president of basketball operations, will be replaced by Larry Riley, a longtime assistant to coach Don Nelson.
Riley, an assistant general manager since last November, was promoted to general manager in a statement by team president Robert Rowell, whose rise mirrored Mullin's fall in recent years.
"It's never an easy decision to make a change," said Rowell, who publicly disagreed with Mullin on two important decisions last year. "This case is compounded by the fact it involves Chris Mullin -- someone who has provided Bay Area fans with many great memories over the years, as both a player and executive. He's a class individual who will always be remembered for his accomplishments with the Warriors organization."
Mullin didn't immediately return a call to his cell phone, and Nelson wasn't available for comment. Rowell and Riley scheduled a news conference for Tuesday.
Mullin's contract won't be renewed after it ends June 30, but the two-time U.S. Olympian and St. John's star has been on the outs with Rowell for much longer. They clashed last summer over decisions on a contract extension for Baron Davis and a suspension for injured guard Monta Ellis, with Rowell apparently overruling Mullin both times.
Riley, a veteran NBA assistant coach and personnel executive, moved upstairs last November when the Warriors abruptly fired Pete D'Alessandro, Mullin's longtime right-hand man. Mullin quickly retreated from public view, refusing most interview requests and rarely showing his face to reporters or fans at Oracle Arena.
The Warriors improbably refused to acknowledge a clear change in their hierarchy during their recently completed 29-53 season while Mullin stopped speaking publicly about the franchise and Rowell became more prominent.
Nelson, who has been embroiled in power struggles at nearly every stop in his 30-year coaching career, wouldn't even acknowledge the drama around Mullin, who played for Nelson during their first stints with the club -- although Nelson admitted he wasn't sure who would run the Warriors' draft preparations. Mullin jettisoned coach Mike Montgomery in 2006 to rehire Nelson, and the coach still claims their relationship is solid.
The basketball-crazy Bay Area's long-troubled franchise has made the playoffs just once during Cohan's ownership since 1994, but the Warriors owed that sole success to Mullin and Nelson, who put together the club that stunned top-seeded Dallas in the 2007 playoffs. The 2008 squad barely missed the postseason despite winning 48 games, the most by a non-playoff NBA team in a quarter-century.
Rowell, who never played or coached in the NBA, now seems to be in charge after yet another change of course by owner Chris Cohan, who once was Mullin's most ardent supporter after grooming the five-time All-Star forward for the top executive job.
Rowell's apparent displeasure with Mullin became public last summer when the Warriors allowed Davis, their top scorer and the star of their 2007 success, to leave for the Los Angeles Clippers as a free agent. Mullin and Davis were thought to be close to a contract extension before Rowell vetoed it.
Rowell then overruled Mullin again later in the summer after Ellis, their high-scoring young guard, seriously injured his ankle in a motorized scooter crash shortly after signing a six-year, $66 million contract extension. Mullin argued against a suspension or fine for Ellis, but Rowell publicly scolded Mullin and ordered a 30-game suspension without pay.
Yet since taking over in April 2004, Mullin has been the Warriors' most successful executive of the last 15 years -- admittedly not a high bar to clear in Oakland.
Mullin's personnel record was mixed. He gave exorbitant contracts to the likes of Adonal Foyle, Derek Fisher and Mike Dunleavy, yet he usually managed to maneuver out from under bad deals with trades. He acquired Davis from New Orleans in a move that revitalized the point guard and the Warriors, while Mullin's trade of Dunleavy and Troy Murphy for Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington sparked Golden State into the playoffs.
Mullin drafted Ellis, center Andris Biedrins and promising forward Anthony Randolph, but he also used first-round picks on center Patrick O'Bryant and forward Ike Diogu.
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