The Right Move for Warriors
by Glenn Dickey
May 18, 2006

CHRIS MULLIN should admit his mistake and hire Eric Musselman to coach the Warriors again.

Thatís not the hottest rumor, of course, thatís swirling around the Warriors. Than honor goes to the nonsensical one insisting Larry Brown is headed to the Warriors. More about that later

Musselman coached the Warriors for two seasons, while Mullin was preparing to take over as the top decision-maker for the Warriors. The two often clashed over the use of players. Mullin wanted to see young players used more, to develop them. Musselman played those he thought could help the team win.

The biggest clash was over Mike Dunleavy, whom Mullin saw as a future star. Musselman wasnít so sold and, at this point, he seems to have had the more accurate evaluation. Musselman, though, did help Dunleavyís development by using him as a point guard when injuries at the position caused an emergency, and the time he spent at the point made Dunleavy a better ballhandler. Dunleavy is not the star Mullin thought he would be, but heís a good complementary player who would look much better if the rest of the team were better.

Musselman brought a hard-nosed attitude, especially for defensive play, that he inherited from his dad, Bill Musselman, a long-time coach. He also instilled a sense of responsibility in the players, a trait often lacking in NBA players and which had been especially lacking in the Warriors since Don Nelson left.

Mullin never talked about his differences with Musselman; the split over young players was brought up by the players themselves. Itís possible that Musselmanís style also bothered him. Mullin talks with great admiration of Nelsonís style, of his ingenuity in putting different lineups on the floor, of his tactical brilliance. The Nelson teams, for which Mullin was the leading scorer and part of the TMC grouping (Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Mullin), were exciting to watch, as Nelson minimized their defensive weaknesses with an all out offensive attack.

Musselmanís style with the Warriors was more plodding, but he also lacked the talent that Nelson had.

When you replace a coach, itís essential that you have a better one to replace him. Mullin thought he had that man when he appointed Mike Montgomery, who had been so successful at Stanford. It hasnít worked with Montgomery, though.

Montgomery has struggled with the change from an environment where he had total control to one where the players have control. Strategies that worked for him in college donít work in the pros, but heís often stuck with them. He did finally realize that one of his pet theories Ė that you donít foul a shooter in three-point range in the closing seconds because that gives him three free throws Ė is not workable in the pros. In college play, it makes sense, because a college player is more likely to make three free throws than to sink that three-point shot in the clutch. In the NBA, they make that three-pointer.

BECAUSE OF Montgomeryís problems, there have been a steady stream of rumors that he would quit to go back to the college game or be fired and replaced by another NBA coach.

The most ridiculous is the latest, that Brown would go to the Warriors, still another example of why the Internet can be a dangerous thing. Bloggers who have no responsibility to anybody but themselves will put out their suppositions and claim them as fact, and soon, theyíre all over the net.

Interestingly, Warriors owner Chris Cohan interviewed Brown for the Warriors job once, before the 1997-98 season. Brown turned down the Warriorsí offer to go with the Philadelphia 76ers. Cohan then hired P. J. Carlesimo, who was undermined by the players almost from the start and even got choked by Latrell Sprewell. The players didnít like Carlesimo because he yelled at them, poor babies. The agent for Antawn Jamison told then general manager Garry St. Jean that Jamison would not sign another contract with the Warriors if Carlesimo stayed.

Brown might have made some sense for the Warriors at the time. Though he has a well-deserved reputation for moving from team to team, he was somewhat more stable at that time; he coached the 76ers for the next six years, while the Warriors went through five coaches, including St. Jean, who took over when Carlesimo was fired early in his third season, and Brian Winters, who took over when Dave Cowens was fired early in his second season. Strange as it sounds, the nomadic Brown might have given the Warriors a relative stability, and he certainly would have brought an authority and reputation that no coach has had in the post-Nelson era.

Now, at 65 and with serious health problems, Brown makes no sense at all. Certainly, Mullin knows that.

MULLIN HAS not tried to shift blame for the teamís failures to Montgomery, as St. Jean often did with the coaches unfortunate enough to have him in the front office. Chris has repeatedly said the problem is with him because he put together the team.

But can he now admit his twin errors with Musselman and Montgomery and bring back Musselman? I hope so, because the Warriors need to go forward with a coach who understands the pro game, not one whose roots remain in college ball.

TOMORROW: Iím going down to Santa Clara to talk to Norv Turner to ask him what he can do to fix the 49ers offense, and especially Alex Smith. My interview is scheduled for mid-day, so my column will be a late post again, probably around 4 p.m.

What do YOU think? Let me know!

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