Thursday, April 29, 2010


We just finally did another sports blog(Stephen Curry) and it had been a long time. Well here's another one. Franklin Mieuli, the one-time owner of the Golden State Warriors, just passed away at age 89. Under Mr. Mieuli's ownership, the Warriors had 8 consecutive winning seasons, the longest in their bay area tenure. And in 1975 they brought the bay area its only NBA title. Mr. Mieuli was a colorful character, often seen a la Sherlock Holmes in a deerstalker's cap.

When I was a freshman in high school, I played C & D basketball. That was basketball for short kids who didn't want to run cross country track or play football. In those days Mr Mieuli had a residence in Santa Cruz, so the Warriors had their training camp in Santa Cruz. They would play an open public scrimage with the proceeds going to charity at the Civic Auditorium. And the Soquel High School C & D's would pay their Santa Cruz High counterparts in 2 preliminary games. So I got a chance to see Wilt Chamberlin, Nate Thurmond, Guy Rodgers, Tom Meschary in these public scrimmages. 1962 and 1963 I believe. After that the training camp was shifted to San Jose. I remember standing about 10 feet from Wilt Chamberlin during their half-time break as he dripped sweat and put away large coke container after container. He was massive and awesome indeed. I saw Nate Thurmond's first training camp. Rick Barry didn 't come along until 1965, so I didn't get to see him.

It is amazing how this culture is dominated by the thought form of winning. I talked to Mr Mieuli once on Sportsphone 68(KNBR) in the early '80's. I was very critical of the way the Warriors were being run. Like so many others rather than being grateful for the 1975 title I was spoiled by it and wanted to know why that success was not being sustained. I look at myself then and really cringe. Even as a fan winning was not everything, it was the only thing. The '49ers were yet to hit their ascent of the '80's.The A's had a run of world titles in the mid '70's. The Raiders were the paradigm of success, constantly fielding winning teams and winning the Super Bowl in 1977(I was in Japan and missed it). So there was enough winning going on to make you believe you were entitled.

Mr. Mieuli as the NBA became more "corporate" was forced to sell the Warriors in the mid to late '80's. The initial owner, Dan Finane, brought in Don Nelson first as GM then coach, and the Warriors became interesting again, if not title contenders. The Cohan ownership has produced one shining jewel of a moment(the "We Believe" first round upset of Dallas a couple of seasons ago) and not much else. So it had been awhile since I gave Mr Mieuli and his tenure any thought at all. He ran the franchise as a fan would. His model was family, not business. He gave his star players(Wilt Chamberlin and Rick Barry) handshakes instead of contracts. At the time this horrified me. He apparently kept the 1975 NBA championship trophy in the back seat of his car just so he could go around publicly and let the fans touch it. Yet he was totally committed to winning. He was eventually forced to sell because the league ownership became more and more corporate therefore wealthier. He was forced to trade Bernard King to the New York Knicks) because he couldn't afford him. King after the trade took out a whole page ad in the Oakland Tribune and thanked the fans for their support.

I guess what really shocked me was that the way Mieuli ran the Warriors is like I try to run the dojo. Aikido has gone its own form of corporate. The emphasis is on having large organizations, workshops both local and international, and numbers numbers numbers. For me the message of the founder is foremost. A lot of leaders are committed to aikido but I feel have lost his message. I happen to personally like some of these people a lot. But I do not hang with empire builders...... So it is amazing that if I were 30'sh today, I would probably look at the way the dojo is run and be very critical, just as I was of Mr. Mieuli. I think the message is quite clear. BE careful of what thought forms rule you. Winning and success are very seductive. I hope Franklin Mieuli rests in peace. He deserves it.

Here is a youtube clip about the historical and social significance of the Warriors only NBA title, and Mr Mieuli was a large part of that, too.


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