Lacob puts his stamp on Warriors in first year
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Joe Lacob let out a deep breath and acknowledged the hard work behind his hiring frenzy, a rare break to reflect. For one brief moment anyway.
Then, he quickly turned his attention back to everything still left on a lengthy to-do list.
Lacob had nearly completed his conscientious front-office overhaul last month by adding yet another key piece in what has become his personal project of rebuilding the Golden State Warriors.
Lacob vowed to put his own mark on this once-proud franchise - and has he ever done that. He and fellow owner Peter Guber are quickly approaching the Nov. 12 one-year anniversary of their tenure in Oakland and sure seem to be ready to go once the lockout ends.
Might their next big splash be one day moving this club across the bay to San Francisco? Don't put it past these two.
The new-look Warriors have begun a new era with Lacob and Guber leading the way.
Lacob gave himself a year to make all the moves he sought to turn around an organization that has reached the playoffs only once since 1994, a run to the second round in 2007.
He has carefully ruffled feathers while making sweeping changes he hopes will transform Golden State into a regular winner in the talented Western Conference.
When Lacob introduced Rick Welts as the Warriors' new president and chief operating officer in late September, he could finally say that much of his work assembling the upper-level management team was done.
"To me, this is the exhale day," Lacob said, standing off to one side post-news conference. "It marks the end of the major moves and changes. It was the timeline ... the one-year anniversary of us taking over. We beat it."
Not that many would expect Lacob to slow down. As soon as the sides settle this lockout, it will be a mad scramble to assemble rosters.
When Lacob and Guber bought the Warriors for a record $450 million in July 2010 from longtime owner Chris Cohan, Lacob quickly took charge of operations on the basketball side - while film guru Guber is the entertainment expert in this leadership duo.
They had a clear mission: being an occasional playoff team wasn't going to cut it.
Lacob and Guber have shown they will be aggressive when it comes to doing whatever it takes to consistently contend.
"These guys don't sit still. They have a bias toward action, but they're also thoughtful about it," Welts said.
In April, Lacob gave general manager Larry Riley a new contract to stay in his current position as GM and executive vice president of basketball operations. Former sports agent Bob Myers was hired as the team's assistant GM and vice president of basketball operations to serve as Riley's right-hand man and contract expert.
"In all honesty, there has been a great deal of change. I think some people thought that when Joe and Peter took over that everything would be radical and get done all in one week," Riley said Wednesday. "Both of them are very astute businessmen and have a feel for sports without question."
The Warriors parted ways with coach Keith Smart after one season and replaced him with Mark Jackson - and Lacob publicly acknowledged he wanted his guy calling the shots on the bench. Smart led Golden State (36-46) to 10 more victories than the year before after taking over last minute in September 2010 for the NBA's career wins leader, Don Nelson.
This past spring, Golden State landed Hall of Famer Jerry West to serve in an advisory role for the front office. West is currently promoting his book, "West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life," which hit stores Wednesday. He reveals a lifelong battle with depression and stories of an abusive father.
Lacob's choice to part ways with Nelson - with his NBA-best 1,335 victories in 31 seasons - was a big deal, too. It meant paying the coach's $6 million salary for last season.
People around the country are taking notice of Lacob's actions.
"Joe's pretty smart," said former Warriors coach Mike Montgomery, now back in the college game at California. "From what I've been able to see from a public relations standpoint of what's happened, I think he has made a lot of the right moves. I don't know anything about Mark Jackson as to whether he'll be able to be successful. The Jerry West thing was a real positive because Jerry is so well thought of and so well respected."
Aside from the high-profile personnel moves, there have been other significant changes.
"(Ownership) has a view that is beyond the Bay Area and, frankly, beyond the United States," Welts said. "They have a laser focus on the experience for the fans."
In fact, the owners are working on enhancing the fan experience at Oracle Arena through various upgrades. That is more Guber's gig.
Riley appreciates the entire makeover. There is a lot of planning taking place behind the scenes to proceed swiftly once things settle.
"That's Joe and Peter, no question, it's their leadership," Riley said of the upgrades. "We're not just going to be satisfied - though we love being a Bay Area team, we would like to have more national recognition. The things that we're doing lead us to becoming one of the first-class teams in the NBA."
When Lacob and Guber were introduced, they were candid when it came to their plan.
"We're not the cure for cancer, but we might be the cure for Cohan," Guber said in reference to the former owner.
They have kept going ever since.
The Warriors bought a new D-League team, the Dakota Wizards, and ownership is completely renovating the team's executive offices in downtown Oakland. They even purchased a second-round pick on draft night. And that's just a start.
"Everyone in the NBA looks at this franchise as a sleeping giant," Welts said. "The buzz outside the Bay Area is that there's something happening here that's going to be very special."
Lacob expects nothing less.
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