The Warriors are winning, which of course means I’m going to write about the times when they were awful. Mainly because I’m jealous.
Jealous that these new PR guys working for the Warriors have it easy.
You see, part of the job is going into each team’s locker room before the game to retrieve starting lineups from the head coach. Today, it’s the same starting five of quality NBA players. Mark Jackson doesn’t think twice: “Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, Lee and Bogut.” If someone gets hurt, they have Harrison Barnes to step in – a player that would start on most NBA teams.
Back when I did it as a Warriors PR flack? The coach would scratch his head and scan the locker room, woefully looking at the players with a confused expression like someone watching the “Bound 2” video.
Here’s one of my starting lineup encounters.
April 19, 2000 – Oakland, CA
Suns vs. Warriors
I step into the locker room, unsure of what to expect. The previous day, assistant Dave Cowens was named head coach. With one game left in the season. But he wouldn’t be head coach until the final game was over. Confused? This is how things went for the Warriors back then.
Garry St. Jean had been filling in since late December following the firing of P.J. Carlesimo.
“The Watcher” by Dr. Dre is blasting in the locker room. Mookie Blaylock is practicing his putting skills, hitting a golf ball into Tim Young’s giant Nike shoe. Vonteego Cummings is rapping Dre’s part of the song and trying to get Larry Hughes to do the hook. Hughes says nothing and walks away quietly. Jason Caffey, Erick Dampier, Donyell Marshall and Billy Owens are in street clothes because it’s the last game of the season and the Warriors are 19-62. Why should they dress?
I walk up to St. Jean.
St. Jean: “No, no, no. I’m done with this. Let Dave pick the five. Get him ready for next season.”
Me: “But you’re coaching tonight.”
St. Jean: “Kid, I haven’t coached since I got stuck with this garbage gig.”
So I walk up to Cowens, drinking a Bud Light can that I’m guessing isn’t his first of the evening.
Me: “Who do you want to go with tonight, Coach?”
Cowens (turns to look at Blaylock): “Mookie, can you play?”
Mookie short-arms his putt. “Damn it. You messed me up Dave.”
Cowens: “Can you play?”
Mookie: “Yeah, yeah, I’m good.”
Cowens: “One down.”
Me: “Four to go.”
Cowens: “Hughes at two guard. Jamison at the three.”
Me: “We’re good with Hughes. But Jamison has been out since February. Knee surgery. Do you really not know what players you have?”
Cowens: “Look around. Can you blame me?”
Me: “My bad. You’re right.”
Cowens: “Who else we got?”
I point to Adonal Foyle, who is speaking passionately to a ball boy about the importance of the young generation getting involved and working to remove big private money out of politics.
Cowens: “Put him at the five.”
Like a ghost, assistant coach Brian Winters floats by, causing both Cowens and I jump.
Cowens: “Jesus, get some sun, would you Brian. You’re scaring everyone around here. Who can we play at the three and the four?”
Winters: “Farmer’s available.”
Cowens: “We got a farmer on the team?”
Winters: “Tony Farmer.”
Cowens: “I don’t get it?”
Me: “He started last game.”
Cowens: “We lost the last game.”
Me: “He’s actually started eight games this year.”
Cowens: “How’d that go?”
Me: “We lost all eight.”
Cowens: “Put him in.”
Me: “We need one more.”
Cowens: “Can you shoot?”
Me: “A little. I can bomb threes like Steph Curry, but don’t really make that many. I’d probably get dunked on like Shawn Bradley and have my shot rejected like David Lee.”
Cowens: “Who are Steph Curry and David Lee?”
Me: “You don’t know them, but your kids will love them. Shot to Marty McFly.”
Just then, Mark Davis sprints into the locker room.
Davis: “Sorry coach, I was out in the parking lot helping Bill Curley figure out what the hell to do with his hair and lost track of time. I’m ready to play.”
Cowens: “Great, you’re starting.”
Davis heads to his locker to suit up.
Cowens (whispering to me): “Who is that guy?”
Me: “Mark Davis. He’s started six games at small forward for us.”
Cowens: “How’d we do?”
Me: “We won two.”
Cowens: “Nice. Great call by me then. Sorry kid, maybe you’ll get to play next time.”
Me: “But this is the last game of the season.”