Here is a link to my Sunday column comparing the actions of Jed York and Joe Lacob. The full text runs below:
Is Joe Lacob a better guy than Jed York?
Opinion writers — people like me — generally believe Lacob is the better man, the morally superior man. This assumption informs much of my writing, much of Bay Area sports writing. But is it correct?
Or, to be blunt, am I all wet and are my colleagues all wet?
I’ll stick with me. I understand me better than writers who are not me. I’ve written reams about York and Lacob, more on York lately because of questionable, outrageous, morally gray things he’s done in the past six or so months. Lacob did his questionable, outrageous, morally gray things before that.
What are those things?
As you know, York or someone very close to York told the national media Jim Harbaugh was a goner, would be out after the just-completed season. York or someone very close to York floated these notions before the season began. Harbaugh sure was out. I wrote the leaking was unfair and shady in an ethical sense. It was. I wrote it hurt the season — it did — and made Jed look bad.
I still believe all that.
It’s just that Lacob did the same stuff — at least, some of the same stuff. And he got away with it — no scars, no biting satire directed his way, no nothing.
Sometime in the Warriors’ 2013-2014 season, everyone started hearing the rumors. Coach Mark Jackson would be gone at season’s end. I sat in many Jackson news conferences, even during the playoffs, where the main topic was him — his future, his impending demise as coach and how he felt about it. He was a man under interrogation.
I have to assume Lacob or someone very close to Lacob was talking too much, talking out of turn — being unprofessional in the Jed York sense.
After last season, Lacob fired Jackson, fired him fast. So, all the rumors were true. Jackson had been a good coach, resurrected the franchise — just like Harbaugh did in Santa Clara. And he made the Warriors into winners. The players liked Jackson and many thought the firing unfair. From a win-and-loss perspective, the firing almost certainly was unfair.
Which means Lacob and York acted in eerily similar ways, regrettable ways. And it was all unnecessary. Both ownerships could have kept quiet, done things with grace, and acted at the appropriate time when the season was over. But York gets the heat, and Lacob is smelling like a rose?
Why the difference?
Now things get interesting.
Writers prefer Lacob to York. I’m not so sure about fans. They did boo Lacob that time at Oracle Arena.
Lacob is always around. He’s at the arena before and after games, and you can talk to him and joke with him and argue with him. York generally is in hiding. Sometimes, I think he’s a hologram.
So, writers are more familiar with Lacob.
Lacob is a self-made man. He started from nothing and made himself a financial wizard and outbid Larry Ellison for the Warriors. He’s what you’d call a scrapper. He’s one of us.
York most definitely is not one of us. He was born rich. He had things handed to him before he was ready — like ownership of the 49ers. He oozes privilege and the easy life. Many fans resent his upbringing — I hear from them all the time. When he talks to the media, he seems to doubletalk. You’re not sure if he’s being straight with you. Lacob, he’s a straight shooter.
So, there’s the likability factor.
Then there were the coaches involved. The media came to like Harbaugh. I sure did. He is funny and he learned the writers’ names. In news conferences he called me “the great Lowell Cohn,” although I never knew where that came from.
Jackson used no one’s name. Not that I ever heard. He was above personal connections. He was a know-it-all. He had no humor — was kind of a bore. He was condescending. At the drop of a hat, he would start preaching about God and how his team was touched by the deity. This was not what I signed on for, to be preached at by a coach. And people in the Warriors organization did not like him — Lacob has told us that.
And, face it, Jackson’s offense was stone age, and that hurt him. Although, Harbaugh’s offense may be stone age, too, or rah-rah college.
Writers didn’t object when Lacob dumped Jackson, but they did object when York dumped Harbaugh. It was the likeability factor again.
And there’s one other thing. Lacob seems to have gotten a better result than York. Lacob replaced Jackson with Steve Kerr, apparently an all-time great guy and apparently an excellent coach. A paragon of fine behavior and fine media relations.
York replaced Harbaugh with Jim Tomsula. A friend of mine says Tomsula reminds him of Norm from “Cheers.” Good luck to Norm coaching the Niners.
The Warriors are the talk of the NBA for all the right reasons. The 49ers may be the talk of the NFL for all the wrong reasons. And that reflects well on Lacob and poorly on York.
Does any of this mean Lacob is a better guy than York?
It means Lacob is a more savvy owner, a slicker man with the media, a more attractive man. But when it comes to where both live in their hearts and in their guts, they are remarkably similar.
I remind myself of that.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn firstname.lastname@example.org.