BASKETBALL: Warriors’ brain trust prepares for draft


Golden State’s brain trust is now hard at work executing the
game plan. The NBA draft is Thursday, and the Warriors have the No.
11 pick.
By Marcus Thompson II – The Oakland Tribune

OAKLAND, Calif. – Last month, Warriors co-owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber flew the entire basketball operations staff to Southern California to meet a potential new team member: Jerry West.

They had dinner and talked shop. Lacob paid close attention, watching them interact and play off one another. He was sold.

West signed on as an executive board member, and Lacob’s basketball cabinet was complete. It included executive vice president Larry Riley, vice president Bob Myers, director of player personnel Travis Schlenk, director of basketball operations Kirk Lacob and West as executive board member/in-house legend. (Robert Rowell stepped down as team president Tuesday.)

“You start with the top and work your way down,” Lacob said. “This is a top-to-bottom remaking of the franchise. We have tremendous talent with great experience and great energy. They will succeed. I think it’s one of the best basketball operations staffs in the NBA.”

Golden State’s brain trust is now hard at work executing the game plan. The NBA draft is Thursday, and the Warriors have the No. 11 pick. Plus, Lacob has set the standard and style of play he would prefer: a Warriors team focused on defense but is exciting on offense.

He also wants a playoff team. Now.

“When you look top to bottom,” said coach Mark Jackson, who was hired June 6, “we are in a great place as far as the front office and decision-making.”

But which decision-maker will have the final say? In the event of a disagreement among the basketball operations staff, who gets to say “yes” or “no” on a draft pick or a trade?

Riley is the undisputed triggerman, a decision Lacob acknowledged took him a bit of strategizing. Riley had the demeanor and focus Lacob wanted atop the staff. And because Riley is winding down his career, Lacob could be sure the 66-year-old wouldn’t operate for selfish reasons or be bothered by rising stars in the industry.

“When I was thinking about what I should do, I called Larry,” Myers said. “I asked him what he thought. He told me to join the Warriors. He said it would be great. If he was less secure in his role, he wouldn’t have encouraged me to get on board. To me, that showed how big of a person he was.”

Riley is noted for his work ethic, which is largely what endeared him to Lacob in the first place. But his humility and smoothness will play as big a role.

Riley will be responsible for making sure the staff meshes. He will have to balance personalities, manage the staff and make final decisions _ all while keeping the zealous owners assured that everything is running smoothly and likely getting none of the credit.

He has special experience for such a task, though.

“Absolutely no doubt that if I hadn’t been with Don Nelson for 10 years,” Riley said with a laugh, “I wouldn’t be able to handle this.”

Part of Riley’s task is to groom Myers, who is pegged as his successor.

Myers, who gave up his job as a sports agent to join the Warriors, is the guru of negotiations. He has extensive experience dealing with contracts, the league office and the collective bargaining agreement.

Myers, 36, added that his understanding of NBA players, from years of being intimately connected with them, figures to be an asset. Such expertise will come in handy during trades and free-agent signings.

“He’s an understated guy, but very bright,” said West, who has been friends with Myers for upward of a decade. “He’s got a real good feel for players. He’s going to be really good.”

Schlenk, 37, is described as experienced and humble but opinionated. He just finished his 14th season in the business, the last seven with the Warriors. He has done everything from working with players to scouting. With this new regime, Schlenk’s primary contribution is scouting and evaluating talent.

The younger Lacob, 22, will do scouting and research.

Of course, it all sounds great in the honeymoon stage. But what happens when they can’t all agree? How do they respond when a decision doesn’t work out? How do they handle the pressure of a desperate fan base and hands-on ownership?

“That’s why talking and communicating is so important,” said West, 73. “The worst thing in the world is when you have hidden agendas. I don’t see that here. Everyone knows their role.

“What’s good is freely exchanging ideas and valuing each other’s opinion. I really feel we’ve got that here.”