But his pride was wounded, Barry says. He told Hale about the original $40,000 base salary. Hale was shocked. "He must be kidding," Hale said. "I didn't tell Franklin how disappointed I was," Barry explains, "because if I had and then came back I would be pressuring him into a bidding contest. When I went there the main thing I wanted was to find out exactly what he thought of me, and I sure found out, didn't I? For me to make $75,000, the gate would have had to go over a million, and only the Lakers and the Knicks ever did that." As it turned out, he and Mieuli never had serious negotiations again. On June 20 Mieuli was ready with a contract offering a straight salary deal at the high figure he had mentioned—$75,000. But he was too late. Barry walked in, said hello, and informed him he had signed with Oakland.
Barry is taking the chance that his more tentative exposure in the ABA will cost him endorsements, but there is just a possibility that Barry could make hundreds of thousands of dollars if Oakland survives. The odds are not locked against the ABA, because basketball is a sport that requires few players and the balance of power can shift quickly—particularly with UCLA's Lew Alcindor available in two years. In two years Rick Barry will be 25 and an owner. Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Elgin Baylor and Jerry West will all be in their 30s. The ABA, if it keeps Barry and can land Alcindor, would be in a reasonable position to force a merger with the NBA.
That interesting speculation aside, the general reaction has been one of astonishment at how little, relatively, Barry settled for. This leads immediately to the question of how large a part Father-in-Law Hale played, subconsciously and otherwise, in influencing Barry. Many say that Hale was the persuader, and Barry himself is frank to admit: "Of course, my father-in-law was a factor."
However, it must be made clear that Barry is not just related to Hale. He has a genuine respect and love for the man. Searching once to explain his feelings about Pat Boone, Barry paid him what he obviously felt to be the ultimate compliment: "The best I can say about Pat is that he is like my father-in-law."
Hale, however, is embarrassed, and when he begins to suggest that he and Rick hardly even discussed the ABA, he manages only to give a greater substance to his alleged influence on Barry. "I truthfully believe that God played a part in bringing me back to California." Hale says. Boone was backstage at a casino in Reno on May 16 when Hale agreed by phone to coach the Oaks. Boone turned to Barry, who was also there, and told him the news. Shortly thereafter Barry visited Hale in Florida, and shortly after that he agreed to sign up with Boone, too.
But however anxious Barry was to play for Hale, he was apparently as strongly disposed not to play for Sharman. This conflict surfaced when Barry was under oath giving a deposition in the current litigation. "...I disliked playing for Bill Sharman," he said. "I had a run-in with him in Philadelphia.... And it was something that just completely turned me against Mr. Sharman."
Barry adds now: "I don't want to rip the man. I really don't. I won't say what he said to me in Philadelphia, but it was really awful. Paul Neumann, who is an easygoing guy, was standing there next to me, and he heard it and it even upset him. I didn't enjoy last season. Not at all, I'll tell you that. There were a lot of things. I wouldn't like to go through it again. And you can't tell me that if Mr. Mieuli hadn't fired Alex Hannum that we wouldn't have won the championship."
Barry remains undecided whether or not he would report to the Warriors if Judge Drewes bars him from playing for Oakland (in which case the $750,000 penalty would not apply). Mieuli could trade Barry. Or, presumably, Boone could step in and pay Barry $75,000 to sit out the whole dance. In any event, the Warriors have no claim on him past this season. Various and sundry damage suits could top things off. Mieuli's legal bill has already soared past $100,000. The cost of Barry's defense is probably comparable.
It is a high price for recrimination and anguish, and enough has already happened to dim the memories of the glorious season that was to have been the start of a Warrior dynasty. Mieuli takes the autographed picture down from the wall, and the smiling, familiar faces look out again. But already, somehow, it seems like a relic found in the attic among old wedding portraits, outgrown army uniforms and Christmas tree ornaments. Mieuli handles the picture that way, as something historical and from a long-ago winter, and surely it is.
Rick Barry, the pragmatist, knows as certainly as Franklin Mieuli, the sentimentalist, that even if the Warriors should win the injunction and Barry should decide to come back for one more season, there would be neither the time nor the inclination to catch lightning in a bottle again.