Ray Ratto

Welts is here for basketball purposes


Welts is here for basketball purposes

The only way this Rick Welts thing works at all is if the one thing that makes his appointment as the Warriors new president newsworthy is the one thing that never gets mentioned after today.

Welts is gay. He came out in May, while still the president and chief operations officer of the Phoenix Suns, and left the job a month ago to be closer to his partner, who has joint custody of two children in Sacramento.

Now hes been hired to replace Robert Rowell with the Warriors. I will leave it to you to decide among yourselves where the bar goes on this clearance attempt.

All I know is this: he was the Suns guy for nine years before his sexuality was an issue, in a state not famous for his openmindedness on the subject. In that time, he did fine by all analyses. As you knew he would based on the years of experience he had as the No. 3 man in the NBA office before that, and before that in Seattle with the SuperSonics.

Thus, it cannot matter now that he is gay now that he is here. It cannot be a triumph or a failure or a matter of public discourse. Hes the new Bobby Rowell, and on that alone he must be judged.

Welts came from one of the leagues most stable franchises, although the Suns have struggled to fill their building more in recent times as the economy and the teams indifferent results have conspired to make it not a great time out.

He has also worked through the end of the Jerry Colangelo era and the last seven years for an owner in Bob Sarver who doesnt mind being noticed. That last part wont be a major change, then. Joe Lacob and Peter Guber were both in attendance for the Welts presser, which would under normal circumstances would have merited a press release alone.

But Welts did come out, and he has been a player on the leagues corporate side, and there is a lockout, and there is much to do to rebuild the Warrior brand. And all but the first are what matters for purposes of this discussion, and what he hopes is most discussions to follow.

After all, he did not come to the Warriors because he is gay, but because he is an NBA guy with NBA tracks all over him.

He was the guy, after all, to land the first corporate account in league history Gatorade. Any other questions about his corporate bonafides?

No, he should and will be defined here only for basketball purposes, and in large part that means being defined by his predecessor.

Rowell was the bad cop to Chris Cohans invisible cop, and as such became a target of ire for fans who hated the entire regime for its incompetence, sloth and generally unwarranted smugness. That Rowell was always doing Cohans bidding was clear; that he relished it was also clear. But that he was the one who was visible made it all the worse for him.

Welts wont have that issue, at least not so we can tell. Lacob is as spectacularly public as Cohan was persistently hologrammatic, so Welts wont feel the full sting of being the public bad cop. In fact, if he wants to slap some charm on the office walls to brighten the job profile, nobody would either prevent or begrudge him.

Well be frank here and admit that a new president and COO isnt a particularly sexy announcement, especially when the owner is the one who will the front man for himself. Even Welts as the highest ranking openly gay person in American professional sport is but a novelty; Corny Littman, president of the German soccer club FC St. Pauli is also openly gay, but his team is as counterculture as a sports franchise can possibly get. The Suns have always been a very buttoned down operation even in the Charles Barkley years, and the Warriors arent exactly bold innovators either.

What they are is a team with little success over the past three and a half decades, a loyal but slowly receding fan base that wishes to see actual results rather than pizza delivery men on rollerblades.

Toward that end, Rick Welts is far less important than, say, David Lee. But he is more important than many others, if in fact he will be given real responsibilities that help impact the day-to-day running of the franchise. Put another way, he will be as important as Lacob allows him to be, and he will be as successful as his personality and the on-floor product will permit.

In short, he isnt Bobby Rowell, for good or ill. What he will be remains to be seen. And the sooner he is viewed in a Warriors context rather than a gay executive context, the better we suspect he will like it.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

Celtics are the rivals Warriors fans need

Celtics are the rivals Warriors fans need

You don’t think you needed this game to go this way, but you did, and you do.

The Golden State Warriors spat out a 17-point lead and lost, 92-88, in Boston Thursday night, in a game that was taut if not particularly elegant, and in a game that elevated the Celtics to a place that makes them the new heir apparent to the heir apparent.

The Celtics have been a difficult out for the Warriors during the Brad Stevens Era, losing six of nine but only being blown out twice, and Thursday was not one of those nights. The box score will tell you the shooting and rebounding problems, but the Warriors had that lead and didn’t hold it. Or, to be accurate, the Celtics had that deficit and refused to let it destroy them.

Which is exactly the kind of team you, the fully licensed Warrior fan, want to watch play your team in the NBA Finals. You want to see them genuinely challenged, forced to win outside their comfort zone, induced to show their greatness in the highest of high leverage situations.

At least we think that’s what you want. Maybe you prefer blowouts so you can drink and go to the bathroom without care or fear. After all, the Warriors have taught the area the true meaning of front-running by being in front so often.

But the Celtics play a level of defense typically reserved for the San Antonio Spurs, and yes, the Warriors. They have a spiky exoskeleton that the acquisition of Kyrie Irving has actually enhanced, and Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum give them a gifted precocity that fits well with veterans like Al Horford and Marcus Morris, and Boston’s overall youth (they are fifth youngest, while Golden State is third-oldest) ought to make them a more difficult conundrum than Cleveland or any other team in either conference.

They are not yet the superior team; that remains to be proven, and betting against the Warriors requires a level of irrational bravery left only for the truly self-destructive.

But they are, as we sit this evening, the team the Warriors will have to work hardest to finish, because on a night when they had the chance to do so, they didn’t. In other words, the fight for a third ring still goes through Oakland, but it looks more and more like a one-stop through Boston.

And as much as you may hate thinking about it, you’ll almost certainly remember, and savor, a Celtics-Warriors final more than another round of Cavs-on-the-half-shell.

Three reasons Draymond Green is the perfect college professor


Three reasons Draymond Green is the perfect college professor

Programming note: Warriors-Celtics coverage starts today at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area and streaming live right here 

Draymond Green spoke to a group of students at Harvard Thursday on the subject of leadership, and if you find that incongruous, shame on you.
I mean, who else would you want as a college professor?
Green has led, and been led. He has learned, and he has taught. He has certainly lectured, as any teammate, official and media member will testify. He’d be a hell of a teacher, and the subject almost doesn’t matter.
For one, homework would be different, as in I’d bet there would be no written work. I don’t see Prof. Day-Day poring over essays about the Industrial Revolution, M-theory or pre-Raphaelite art. Not even the history of Basketball-Reference.com.

For two, having tenured faculty audit his classes may find his choice of rhetoric a little strident, as in “What the ---- were you thinking, dude?” is not typically approved instructional methodology.
And three, nobody would get a grade. Green would mark every exam with a “35,” as in his draft position, and besides, the exams would be students arguing with each other over whether that was a foul or a no-call, and who pulled the better face when the call was made. He’d give either an approving nod or give the loser a second technical foul and kick him or her out of class.
But it would be a hell of a class. Not at Harvard, of course, because Green probably would want to teach a school that could better use his brand of wisdom, and Harvard kids already have a healthy lead off third base. He’d want his students to make Harvard students cry, you can just tell.
But wouldn’t he look perfectly Draymond in a cap and gown on graduation day, pulling a bottle out of his sleeve to make the valedictory speeches less painful. “Damn, dude,” you could hear him yell. “Peaking?”