1974–1976: Championship contention
Rick Barry shown in 1976, was named the NBA Finals MVP in 1975.
The 1974–75 team was coached by former Warrior Al Attles, and was led on the court by Rick Barry and Jamaal Wilkes. Wilkes was named the NBA Rookie of the Year, while Barry had a great all-around season averaging 30.6 points per game, leading the league in both free throw percentage and steals per game, and finishing sixth in the league in assists per game. In what many consider the biggest upset in the history of the NBA, the Warriors defeated the heavily favored Washington Bullets in a four-game sweep. So little was felt of the team's chances in the playoffs, even by their home fans, that the Coliseum Arena scheduled other events during the dates of the NBA playoffs. As a result, the Warriors did not play their championship series playoff games in Oakland; rather, they played at the Cow Palace in Daly City. Barry averaged 29.5 points per game during the Finals and was named the NBA Finals MVP.
At 59–23, the Warriors had the league's best record during the 1975–76 season. They were upset, however, by the 42–40 Phoenix Suns in seven games in the Western Conference Finals.
1976–1985: Collapse and resurgence
Because of the loss of key players such as Barry, Wilkes and Thurmond, to bad trades and retirements, the Warriors would struggle to put a competitive team on the court from 1978 to 1987 following their time as one of the NBA's dominant teams during the 1960s and through most of the early and mid 1970s. They would, however, through the draft acquire such standout players such as high-scoring forward Purvis Short (1978), former Georgetown Hoyas point guard Eric "Sleepy" Floyd (1982) (who would later become an All-Star before being traded to the Houston Rockets), and former Purdue University standout center Joe Barry Carroll (1980) whose once promising career would be short-circuited because of injury, as well as center Robert Parish (1976), whom they would trade to the Boston Celtics in 1980.
The departure of these players for various reasons symbolized the franchise's futility during this period, as head coach Al Attles would move up into the front office to become the team's general manager in 1980, and the team would go through several coaching changes. However, with Attles installed as general manager, they would finally manage to climb back to respectability by hiring former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach George Karl as head coach in 1986. They would also find a diamond in the rough, of sorts, that would change the direction of the franchise, drafting St. John's University standout sharpshooting small forward Chris Mullin in the 1985 NBA draft.