OAKLAND — February is when the willpower starts to bend and the discipline begins to erode. It's gorgeous outside, making it that much tougher to force yourself into the gym.

You want to treat yourself, and you do.

So ends the latest cycle of New Year's resolutions, another round of broken promises to the mind and body — and your family. Don't hate yourself. It's not easy to stay committed week after week, much less month after month.

Or, in the case of Chris Mullin, 18 years, four weeks and counting.

That's how long Mullin has been of a new mind, in his new skin.

The old one was shed Jan.11, 1988, when Mullin walked out of a Southern California rehabilitation center 30 days after enrolling for alcohol-dependency treatment.

If he hadn't entered Centinela Hospital's Life Starts program when he did, well, who knows? But Mullin has an idea.

"I wouldn't be here," he says.

Mullin wouldn't be here, sitting in the stands a few rows up from the mostly vacated court at the Arena in Oakland, where the Warriors have completed a game-day shootaround.

He wouldn't be here, so spectacularly alive and looking ridiculously fit for someone en route to his 43rd birthday.

And he certainly wouldn't be here as the chief basketball executive for the Bay Area's NBA franchise.

"That's for sure," he says. "No doubt. Absolutely not. No question about that. It was a blessing. At that particular time, it was the worst thing to ever happen to me. But looking back, it was the best thing that ever happened."

Mullin arrived in Oakland in1985, drafted seventh overall by the Warriors after growing up in New York and completing a marvelous career at the local university, St. John's. He was a celebrity in the nation's biggest city.

Mullin had family and many friends, but he also had an abiding love of beer. And more beer. He was, in retrospect, a functioning alcoholic.

Except on those days when he couldn't function. When Mullin missed a couple of practices, Don Nelson, then the team's general manager, stepped in and convinced his young player to get help.

Mullin returned with a dramatically different look. Gone was the hair that once slapped about his ears, replaced by the crew cut he wears today.

As the months passed and Mullin resumed action on the court, his features, once soft and rounded, grew taut and defined — as they remained for the rest of his career.

As they are today, nearly five years after his retirement.

Then again, Mullin's post-rehab routine has not changed. He exercises as if his life depended on it; perhaps, on some level, it does. He reads various reference books and manuals. He still attends AA meetings, and he remains in frequent contact with his personal sponsor.

"Now I try and do things not only that I'm good at or enjoy, but that also are good for me," he says. "That's a good combination. A lot of things in life that people enjoy, they're not good for you. It sounds very simple, but it's not. It's about not letting things you can't control really dominate you, get into your mind and dominate your day — and dictate your outlook on things. In this position, that becomes important. There are so many little things that can trigger and affect your thought process.

"Each day brings different emotions. The routine and the foundation really doesn't change. So the details are easier. If we win, it's easier. But if we lose, it doesn't shake me. But it's definitely better when we win."

In the 21 months since Mullin took over the Warriors' basketball operation, after two seasons as a special assistant to former general manager Garry St. Jean, he has helped the team regain some of the respect it had lost over the past decade. The Warriors are in the playoffs race, and, moreover, Mullin expresses an unwavering desire to improve the product.

"It's about winning," he says when asked about potential personnel moves. "We're young, and we still have room to grow. Most of the things we're doing wrong are correctable. But we want to keep getting better. If we believe we can do something to improve ourselves, we'll do it."

What has set Mullin apart from some of his predecessors is the ability to be creative and decisive, with a knack for independent thought.

Having fired former coach Eric Musselman, who helped the organization raise its standards, four weeks after replacing St. Jean, Mullin surprised nearly everyone by hiring longtime Stanford coach Mike Montgomery.

When most were convinced the Warriors had neither the resources nor the imagination necessary to acquire a genuine star player, Mullin lifted two-time All-Star point guard Baron Davis from New Orleans.

When many were skeptical about Ike Diogu's worthiness as a lottery pick, Mullin showed enough self-confidence to take Ike anyway.

These moves remain open for review, but none shows any sign of being the kind of colossal blunder for which the Warriors have become known. Even legitimate concern about Mullin's decision to sign Adonal Foyle and Mike Dunleavy to long-term contracts worth a combined $85 million is tempered by the team's need for a big body and by Dunleavy's relative youth.

What's clear is the Warriors have a boss who thinks big, shows ingenuity and conviction. Mullin appears to be one of the NBA's rising power brokers, having taken a unique path.

"There was a point in time when the last person in the world you'd think would be sitting in this seat would be me," he says with a twinkle in his eye. "Now part of that could be funny. Part of that could be scary. Part of that could be overwhelming. But the real deal is, in a weird way, all of those things prepared me for this. Is it a weird way of preparing? Probably so.

"Nevertheless ... a lot of those things, be they mistakes or bad decisions, actually became tools that were given to me. Other people go through business school or whatever. My tools were acquired in a different way."

Mullin stabilized his career, his life and his family. Now, sleeves rolled up, he is hip-deep in the gargantuan job of trying to stabilize the Warriors.

Seeing how the man values commitment, knowing what staying on task has done for him, I wouldn't bet against him.

Monte Poole can be reached at (510) 208-6461 or by e-mail at

mpoole@angnewspapers.com.