To me, the Golden State Warriors are starting to look a lot like the Corleone family. You remember, from “The Godfather.” Bear with me and we’ll get to it.
Golden State was about as poorly run a basketball operation as there has been in the NBA for two decades. The franchise has made the playoffs once in the past 17 years in a league where more than half the teams make the playoffs.
New owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber are trying to change the culture with this franchise, and that has things like bringing in new COO Rick Welts from Phoenix.
It also means a basketball operations shake up. Jerry West is in a board member, Bob Meyers is in as the assistant GM that everyone knows will have Larry Riley’s GM job in a few seasons. Lacob himself will be in on every decision and his son Kirk Lacob is the GM of the Warriors D-League team (the Dakota Wizards) and is the guy who will eventually run the team. Then there is Mark Jackson, the coach with a loud voice in the organization.
Matt Steinmetz breaks that all down over at CSNBayArea.com then asks a really good question:
Most important, do the Warriors’ decision-makers have the ability to work together? They have an abundance of voices, but do they have focus? Here’s the real question: Is this group a hodgepodge of talent or a team put together with chemistry in mind?
I see this almost as Corleone crime family power structure from the Godfather movies (one and two, we don’t speak about three in my household). Lacob is Vito, the head of the family and the ultimate decision maker. Jerry West is the consigliere. Riley and Meyers are captains, although we all know Meyers eventually gets Riley out of the way. And Kirk is a young Michael Corleone. Or Sonny. Or Fredo. We don’t know yet, the book is still out on him. Maybe Mark Jackson is Sonny.
That power structure can work — the Corleone family did quite well — as long as there is good communication and everyone is playing their roles. The first time somebody makes a power play this could get ugly. Although after the Cohen years, Warriors fans are used to ugly.
From pundits to Warriors fans to other front offices around the league, there has been a lot of “Mark Jackson? Are you kidding me?” reactions to the hiring of the Warriors new coach.
And during Game 4 of the NBA finals tonight, when Jackson says something foolish — like in Game 3 when he suggested Dallas should stop letting Dwyane Wade shoot so many open jumpers and make one of the best penetrators in the league but the ball on the floor — you can bet twitter will light up with “that’s your coach, Warriors” comments.
But there has been one group very supportive of the hire: players. As Matt Steinmetz of CSN Bay Area points out, that could be the masterstroke of this hire.
You want to know why Jackson is a better coach for the Warriors than Keith Smart in (team owner Joe) Lacob’s eyes? Because Lacob believes Jackson has a better chance to be a lure for players than Smart, plain and simple.
Say what you want about Jackson, he is someone who many NBA players respect — not just for playing 17 seasons in the league but because he has become a strong voice on basketball matters — because of the forum he has on ABC and ESPN.
During his tenure as NBA analyst, Jackson has formed countless relationships with players, and his hiring was embraced by a number of them, including LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Baron Davis, Dwyane Wade and others.
Steinmetz makes a good point — the Jackson hiring follows in the wake of hiring popular agent Bob Meyers to become the current assistant and future team general manager. Jerry West, the highly respected guy who is the NBA’s logo, is a consultant and part owner.
There’s a pattern there — guys players really respect. Guys who can help lure free agents to the Bay Area.
It’s an interesting strategy, but Lacob’s moves are clearly about players first. We’ll see how that works when it comes time for them to lure free agents.
UPDATE 12:37 pm: It’s official according to CSN Bay Area, the Warriors have confirmed that Jerry West has joined the organization, with the title of “executive board member.” Consultant is still the best term to understand the role.
West can be a strong and persuasive voice, but he also is deft at the politics of the game. He will not step on Larry Riley’s toes and will stand in line with the company publicly. But he is about as straight a shooter as there is out there and there will be no doubt in the organization what West is thinking.
This is a great hire for Golden State.
8:01 am: Jerry West, the legendary Laker general manager from the Showtime era who also spent time in Memphis, is now going to be consulting with the Golden State Warriors.
That’s what Tim Kawakami wrote at the San Jose Mercury News.
West’s exact title has not yet been formalized, but he is expected to be reporting to co-owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber and possibly act as a sounding board in many areas.
The addition of an icon like West is another aggressive and surprising move by Lacob, who brought in agent Bob Myers last month as his GM-apparent.
He’ll be a consultant, basically. Larry Riley is the GM and Meyers will get the gig in a few years.
But it’s a wise move by the owner to have another voice in his ear, especially one with a good eye for talent. (Remember West got Kobe Bryant out of high school, put good role players around Magic and Kareem, and when in Memphis made sure they got Marc Gasol in a deal everyone thought was bad at the time but turned out to be decent.)
Joe Lacob has shown to be hands on as an owner on the basketball side. That can be worrisome. But if he is bringing in smart people around him like West and listening to them, he’ll be fine.
Last summer, before he even took control of the team, new Warriors owner Joe Lacob started to make changes — Don Nelson was out, Keith Smart was in for a year (it was a one-year contract) and they went out and got David Lee. The Warriors got 10 games better.
But now Lacob is starting to lay in the long-term plans.
That starts with extending the deal of existing GM Larry Riley a coupe years, Then the team hired Bob Meyers, an agent with the Wasserman Media Group, as an assistant GM reports Matt Steinmetz at CSN Bay Area. Meyers was the agent for a number of players including Dorell Wright (Warriors), DeAndre Jordan (Clippers), Brandon Roy (Trail Blazers), Tyreke Evans (Kings) and Brook Lopez (Nets).
The plan is for Meyers to take over for Riley in a couple years, Lacob said.
So where does that leave current coach Keith Smart. Limbo, Riley told Steinmetz.
Riley said that there has been no decision made on the fate of coach Keith Smart, and that no decision would likely come for at least a week or 10 days. Lacob went further and suggested it could be longer than two weeks before a decision is made.
It looks now like Lacob is laying out the long-term foundation in the front office. Whether Smart was part of that plan or a stopgap is something they are clearly still deciding.
Smart was solid in his debut — the Warriors got better and were about what everyone expected given their talent, a team in the mid-30s in wins — but nobody is going to confuse him with Tom Thibodeau’s debut either. The question on Smart has to start with “what kind of team do we want to build?” Once you have a plan, then you can hire a coach to execute it. Which may or may not be Smart.