Warriors for sale: What we know

March, 22, 2010
3/22/10
2:05
PM ET
Stein By Marc Stein
ESPN.com
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The publicity-shy owner of the Golden State Warriors has never publicly acknowledged what was widely presumed around the league: Chris Cohan’s team is for sale.

Until now.

Right around noon Monday, Cohan’s team issued an unexpected news release announcing that the Warriors have retained Galatioto Sports Partners to formally conduct the sale of the long-suffering franchise.

Which naturally lobs Larry Ellison right into the conversation.

Ellison is the Oracle chairman who (A) ranks as one of the world’s 10 richest men, (B) owns the fancy tennis tournament in the California desert that just wrapped up Sunday and (C) has been linked with the possible purchase of the Warriors for months.

Ellison actually confirmed his interest in the Warriors in January, but noted at the time that “unfortunately you can’t have a hostile takeover of a basketball team.”

Yet Monday’s announcement means that, fortunately for Ellison, hostilities are no longer required to acquire the Dubs.

Will he actually get them? Until someone who can outbid Ellison surfaces -- and there are no such known entities -- he’s the heavy favorite.

But Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News reported via his Twitter feed Monday afternoon that Ellison is one of just five or six groups interested in buying the club and that those groups had been told to withhold their bids until the “gun goes off.”

One can presume, then, that opening up the bidding so publicly is at least partially aimed at getting Ellison to kick in more money than he’s been willing to discuss so far.

As one top Western Conference executive told ESPN.com on Monday: “This means that the Warriors are serious about selling. But it also means they want top dollar.”

A few more things we know at this early juncture:

• One source close to the situation told ESPN.com that there have been “no discussions” between Ellison and NBA legend Jerry West about West running the Warriors’ franchise if Ellison indeed buys the team.

Yet.

I took a brief detour to Ellison’s tennis tournament last week -- one of my favorite sporting events on Earth -- and was advised by two people who would know that Ellison indeed plans to come hard after West if he winds up owning the Dubs.

• Would West, at 71, accept an offer to return to the NBA after some three years in retirement since leaving the Memphis Grizzlies in 2007?

In an appearance on an ESPN trade-deadline special broadcast Feb. 18, when urged by host Mark Jones to find his way back to a front office somewhere, West said with a laugh: “I’m too old to come back to anything.”

But one plugged-in source insists that it would take an offer including an ownership stake, along with full control of basketball operations, to convince West to seriously consider such overtures at a time he is mostly wrapped up in son Jonnie’s West Virginia team in the NCAA Tournament and has understandable reservations about coming back to the fray at his age.

• Don Nelson needs five more wins to break Lenny Wilkens’ record for the most all-time coaching victories: 1,332.

The safe assumption is that Nelson, even though he’s owed $6 million next season, better manufacture those five victories in Golden State’s final 13 games because he’s sure to be blown out by the Warriors’ next owner.

One disclaimer to file away, though: West and Nelson are longtime pals. West even hired two Nelson disciples -- Mike Dunleavy and Del Harris -- to coach the Lakers in the 1990s. By no means are we suggesting that Nelson can count on blanket safety if West wound up running the Dubs, but firing Nellie wouldn’t be terribly comfortable for The Logo, either.

Marc Stein | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com
• Senior NBA writer for ESPN.com
• Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
• Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics

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