Why I Want Mark Mastrov To Be the Next Owner of the Warriors

Ashwath KrishnaContributor IMay 30, 2010

Every basketball fan in the Bay Area now awaits two days.

The next NBA Draft, held on June 24, and the day in the (hopeful) near future where Satan (sorry, Chris Cohan) finally sells the team and buggers off into the sunset.

Ever since Oracle founder and CEO Larry Ellison announced an interest in buying the team, we’ve been awaiting the Ellison Era.

It’s easy to forget that he isn’t the sole potential buyer. Other groups have expressed an interest, particularly 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov.

Ellison has also made it clear he doesn’t plan to pay more than $315 million, despite some values of the team being over $400 million.

However, it seems to be a foregone conclusion that if Ellison really wants the team, he’ll pay whatever it takes. When your net worth is measured in billions, what you want it what you get etc.

After 15 years of Chris Cohan’s bumbling ownership, where we made just two playoff series and became the butt of jokes around the NBA, I’d have to say I’d take anyone over Cohan.

However, there’s one reason I’m far less suspicious of Mastrov than Ellison.

Purely because he’s one of us.

Mastrov grew up in the Bay Area, he’s been watching the Warriors and has been a fan pretty much ever since they moved from Philadelphia.

If he buys the Warriors, it’s purely because he wants to improve the team and give his fellow fans a better product rather than to just make money.

I’m not sure exactly what his net worth is, but one article I read reports he sold 24 Hour Fitness for over a billion dollars and has invested smartly since. In short, dude poops money. The luxury tax won’t bother him.

After Cohan, I just want an owner who actually cares about the fans and realizes that after all these years, we’ve still stuck by the team.

We’re pretty much the only real asset they have, and I’m pretty sure Cohan would trade us all to the Lakers for cash if he could.

I know Mastrov will care about the fans if he owns the team, because he is one of us. I’m not so sure about Ellison.

There are two things that worry me about Larry Ellison as owner of the Warriors. The first being the persistent rumour that he’s going to move the team to either San Jose or San Francisco, either as soon as he buys the team or within a few years.

He may say he’s not going to move, but Michael Heisley also claimed he would be keeping the Grizzlies in Vancouver. Guess how that went.

Look, I know the Warriors are the Bay Area’s team. But Oakland isn’t like the rest of the Bay Area. We’re the ugly stepchild. When I tell people here that I grew up in Oakland, I always have to make a reference to Tupac or MC Hammer.

A guy I knew from Berkeley once joked in a lecture that traveling to watch the Lakers play the Warriors in Oakland was like entering the ass-crack of the Bay Area. (I wanted to punch him in the face).

The point is, we’re different. We’re tougher, grittier, however you like to put it. And the Warriors’ DNA is woven into Oakland’s DNA in a way that it isn’t into the rest of the Bay Area.

During the Dallas playoff series in 2007, most of the people in the crowd were the long-suffering local fans who were finally seeing a team worthy of their devotion, and showing them how much they loved it.

Come the Jazz series, you had an influx of yuppies from the rest of the Bay (particularly San Fran) coming to see the games because the Warriors had suddenly become cool. Amazing what a couple of playoff wins can do for your cool status.

The point being, the crowds during the Jazz series were nowhere near as electric as they had been for the Mavs.

During the first home game, I almost thought I had entered Staples Center during a Lakers playoff match at one point by mistake; the stands were full of beautiful people who didn’t really give a damn about being there as much as they wanted cool points.

You see where I’ve gone with this. I may not have lived in Oakland for more than 10 years now, but it’s still a part of me. I would be sad if the Warriors left town, even if it’s just across the bridge.

The second fear may not be as personal, but to the rest of the fans it may be equally worrying.

The main reason a Larry Ellison bid was welcomed so loudly by the fans was because of his reputation of being a winner.

Ellison wants to win and will spare no expense to do so. (For the record, I particularly distrust this view because it was most strongly espoused by Tim Kawakami, and I trust that snake-oil salesman about as far as I can throw him with a broken arm).

However, there’s one point being ignored in all of this. You don’t become one of the richest men in the world by burning money. However, to run a successful NBA team, sometimes you have to do so. Even if it means having to pay double in luxury tax.

Ellison has the money. There’s no question about that. However, I’m not sure how willing he is to spend it. Would he be willing to go over the luxury tax if it meant we could have a better team? Would he be willing to basically flush that money down the toilet?

The fact is, I’m not even sure just how much of a fan Ellison is. He’s often compared to Mark Cuban, but with Cuban everyone knew that he was a basketball fan first and foremost and would be willing to do whatever it took to give the fans a better product.

I’ve only ever heard about Ellison attending one game; if I’m wrong, please correct me, but I only know what I hear.

So we have a billionaire who’s a questionable fan wanting to buy the team. Why would he want to do so?

The answer’s simple.


Donald Sterling is a perfect example of how a team can be run to make a profit, even if it means running a sub-par product onto the court every night.

There’s that small, nagging feeling I have with Ellison that he views the Warriors as just another way to make money, especially with the whole Bay Area market at his disposal. If it means treating the fans like dirt, well, they’re used to it by now.

Which we are. However, I will say one thing.

If Larry Ellison buys the Warriors and starts doing whatever it takes to make the team successful, even if it means spending money, I would never be happier to eat a big slice of humble pie.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.