Keith Smart may be out of a job and the Warriors may be shopping for a new coach but the situation out in Oakland is far from solved.
As you may know by now, Smart was fired after only one season coaching the Warriors. New ownership brought him in during training camp after deciding to part ways with Don Nelson.
On July 15 of last year, franchise owner Chris Cohan sold the Warriors to Peter Guber and Joe Lacob for a record $450 million. The duo would not take complete control of the team until November. However, the two got busy really quickly by making the trade for David Lee and signed him to his six-year, $80 million contract with the then owners’ blessing of course.
Additionally, they fired Nelson and hired on Smart, a seven-year member of the staff, as his replacement with a one-year contract with a second year option.
Seems like a lot of work done by two men that hadn’t even taken complete control. Yet, during an interview with Sports Illustrated on the day they bought the team, Guber was asked what his plan was as far as improving the team. His answer:
“I wouldn’t be able to answer that even if I knew the answer,” Guber told SI.com. “We haven’t done the analysis. I honestly, truthfully don’t know the answer. That is the process of examination. There are a lot of forces at work. The collective bargaining agreement is looming. The issues of free agency and trades and all kind of things are going on. We have to transition and we don’t know how long this process will unfold.”
Sort of an odd answer from a guy that just worked a deal for Lee and Dorell Wright. Not to mention the risky signing of Harvard standout Jeremy Lin and all before the sale was even finalized on November 13, 2010.
However, in the same SI interview, Guber stated that he is an impatient man and it’s pretty apparent now. This season, the Warriors were 36-46, a 10-game improvement from last season. Smart kept Golden State in the playoff hunt until a six-game losing streak in March knocked them out of contention. They ended the season strong with a three-game streak with wins over Dallas, Portland and LA but even that wasn’t enough to convince them to retain Smart.
To some it may seem like a surprise that the team has decided to part ways with Keith but again, ownership declared that he was a transitional coach. The mentality of this is odd considering that transitional period took up an entire year but the cards are still in the Warriors’ hands. The only starter up for free agency is Reggie Williams and the only decent bench player up for it is Al Thornton who had the worst scoring season of his career.
Additionally, with the trades that sent both Deron Williams and Carmelo Anthony to the Eastern Conference, right now is probably the best time to rebuild in the West. Utah, Phoenix and Houston all missed the playoffs and are in their respective transitional periods as well. Last season, Oklahoma City was the eight seed with 50 wins. This year, Memphis made the playoffs with 46.
The new ownership is a breath a fresh air for the Warriors who dwelled in the mediocre shadows of the NBA for 15 years with Cohan. They made the playoffs only three times under him. Sports Illustrated rated him as the fourth worst owner right behind Michael Heisley (Memphis), Cablevision/James Dolan (New York) and Donald Sterling (LA Clippers). It’s a rating he deserved too for keeping around Don Nelson who he even sued years ago for jumping ship for New York.
The Warriors only had a handful of winning seasons under Cohan as he made bad decision after bad decision. The 1996 draft featured players such as Allen Iverson, Steve Nash, Ray Allen, Kobe Bryant, Jermaine O’Neal, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Antoine Walker, Peja Stojakovic, and Marcus Camby. Cohan selected Todd Fuller.
Do we really need to get into the Latrell Sprewell incident?
Off the court, Cohan hasn’t made the best decisions either. In 2007, the IRS accused him of tax evasion. He was sent a letter of Deficiency by the Department of Treasury stating that he and his wife, Angela, owed $95 million in taxes and $66 million in penalties. He was accused of purchasing several tax shelters that are tied to a New York-based organized crime investigation. While he wasn’t part of the criminal investigation, Cohan had his hands and money tied to some shady business practices.
Now, the new ownership is determined to move on from Cohan’s mistakes and they aren’t wasting anytime. Smart was only a temporary solution but now that Joe Lacob and Peter Guber are going into their first, full offseason with the team, they will be able to make a more methodical decision as to who they wish to hire as their head coach. In an ESPN report, even Lacob admitted they moved very quickly:
“At some level, and certainly I know some people will say this — that [Smart] deserved another year, that he didn’t have a full roster, and there’s some truth to that,” Lacob said. “But we felt that we could be better. I think to some extent ownership wanted more so to have their guy in.”
They knew it was time to move on completely and have even stated that the new coach will retool the entire staff if he wishes.
Several names have started to swirl around from Jerry Sloan to Jeff Van Gundy. Other names include former Cleveland Cavs coach Mike Brown and Lawrence Frank who is Doc Rivers’ assistant in Boston where Lacob previously held a small stake in the team.
While it is still unknown who the job will go to, one thing is for sure, he will have to be a player’s coach. Ownership was impressed with how Smart related to the players and promised to place his own stamp on the team. He even shook every player’s hand in the locker room on day one and made this promise.
However, he juggled Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry poorly and even benched the rookie Curry late in a few games. His hardline approach strained their relationship but he still had the support of the team.
Bringing in Bob Myers as the new assistant manager is a step in the right direction for fixing this team. Myers is a former agent who represented Kendrick Perkins, Brook Lopez, Antawn Jamison, Brandon Roy, Tyreke Evans and current Warrior Dorell Wright. When he took the job earlier this month, he forfeited his position under Arn Tellem, one of the most powerful sports agents in the game and assumed a position that puts him right under current GM Larry Riley. However, Myers is expected to replace the 66-year-old Riley who was brought in back in 2009 to replace Chris Mullin.
Ownership believes that bringing in Myers will give them the edge since he knows the ins and outs of player management from his time as an agent. He is also a former player that won the NCAA Title in 1995 with the UCLA Bruins and even grew up in the Bay Area.
It was a risky decision to bring over someone without any experience as a GM especially when the likes of Steve Kerr and Kevin Pritchard are possibly looking to return to front office positions.
The Warriors have stated that they are not shopping Ellis or Curry unless the offer was too good to resist. However, they are very unhappy with starting center Andris Biendrins and state that he has to work for his position back with the team. They have stated that they would be willing to move Lee over to the five position or simply give it to Ekpe Udoh. They will also have the option to see who is available in free agency.
Myers will be given a large amount of power to retool both the team and offices. The Warriors’ director of player personnel, Travis Schlenk, and director of basketball operations, Kirk Lacob, the owner’s son, are the only other two names that are guaranteed jobs. Those four, along with the owners, have the daunting task of putting the right people in place to get Golden State back in contention.
When Don Nelson left the Warriors, it meant that his style of fast-paced ball was on its way out as well; however, the team is still moving quickly but in a different way. New owners are scrambling to fix a broken franchise that has been run into the ground by mismanagement and a revolving door of talent. With the right people in place, glory will return to the Bay Area.