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Scott Howard-Cooper

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Jerry West (right) joins a Warriors front office that also includes owner Joe Lacob and several others.
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Warriors don't see suddenly deep front office as a detriment


Posted Jun 9 2011 11:18AM

OAKLAND -- Joe Lacob, Kirk Lacob and Bob Myers were talking on the court after a workout for six Draft prospects at the Warriors' downtown practice facility and Larry Riley had just returned to his office. Jerry West was not there, but he was, you know? The Logo is omnipresent.

To review who's who: The owner, the owner's son with a voice in basketball ops, the assistant general manager (who surely did not leave a very successful career as an agent in April to sit in the back seat in Golden State), the general manager, and Jerry West (of Jerry West fame). And that doesn't include hiring a coach with a strong personality, Mark Jackson.

Nobody knows if this crowded management team will work. Better yet, how it will work, from who takes the lead on trade calls to who makes the decisions, which start now with the June 23 Draft and the Warriors picking 11th. Nobody knows outside the front office, that is.

Inside, they naturally say it's a non-issue. Riley is The Guy. Myers provides a new perspective on player evaluations and contract negotiations. West is an important advisor -- "He's a sounding board, that's the way I will use him," Riley said -- and will also be investing time outside of basketball operations. Kirk Lacob, a year out of Stanford, is, his father has said, on the bottom rung and reports to Riley. It's all so clear.

But around the league?

One veteran executive was asked where he would go with a trade proposal. He paused, shrugged and said, "That's a good question."

A long-time agent termed the reconstructed front office "A two-headed monster," ... meaning Riley and West.

"It's a valid question," Riley conceded.

So the Warriors' issue is more than just public perception. Teams and agents not getting the answer they want from one member of management will almost certainly call another in hopes of a different response.

Speaking with the same voice sends the necessary message and avoids signaling confusion. But that's just part of it. The harder part could come internally, when the day arrives -- be it on Draft night or beyond -- that Joe Lacob is forced to choose between the opinion of Riley, his general manager, and West, his hire from Mt. Olympus.

West has been and will continue to be very conscientious, even concerned, about the appearance of stepping in front of Riley. It's the same way he purposely stayed away from the Lakers after that breakup, to give successor Mitch Kupchak breathing room at a time the comparisons would be constant. But he's also the new member of the Executive Board who came to the May 20 introductory press conference popping with energy, saying that "If somebody thinks I'm a figurehead, we should part company right now," and "I will tell you I'm no shrinking violet. I'm not. If you don't want my opinion, don't ask."

Which brings up the original question: Who is in charge?

"It does rest with me," Riley said with the Warriors deep in Draft preparation. "Joe has said that several times. We've assembled a team to work together and it's pretty darn good.

"I understand that these things can be said (over who is in charge). If it turns out to be true in a year, a year and a half, then those skeptics will have been proven right. But right now, I feel very comfortable with my role."

It obviously helps that Riley has long been known as a consummate professional who works without any noticeable ego. Someone more fragile or more concerned about perception would have already clinched up. That is a promising sign for a future without rancor.

But this process is still in its infancy. West is hitting town with the volume turned up. The rest of the league is waiting to see how the arrangement plays out. Starting now.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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