Q&A: Warriors Owner Joe Lacob

Posted by C.L. Anthony on Wednesday, May 07, 2014 with No comments
Courtesy of Tim Kawakami

-Q: At what point did you decide you had to make a change with the coach?
-LACOB: Well, I know I’ve been quoted as saying–multiple times–and it is true, we’re going to wait ’til after the year to make a decision. I know I’ve already heard people say, ‘Oh, they’ve had this decision made long ago.’ That is not true.
Were we discussing it? Of course, we had those conversations.
But I’m going to tell you this, even in the meeting this morning, when Bob and I were sitting here with Mark, I mean, he’s a very compelling guy. And we spent over an hour and a half with him this morning.
You always wonder whether you’re doing the right thing, right? It’s not a simple thing.
Look we decided it really last night, this morning was when the decision was made. And met with Mark. We didn’t want to mess around–once we’d made that decision, we’d done our due diligence, spent a very hard 48 hours after the season, we made a decision. And you’ve just got to just go (with it).
-Q: Could Jackson have done or said anything to salvage it this morning?
-LACOB: No, we made our decision. Now I wouldn’t say never. You never say never, I guess.
But no, we had very carefully thought about it and thought about the decision and we had a really great conversation with him, I thought.
It was very positive. And I think instructive for him and for us, what we both could do better maybe in another situation, another time. And I’ll leave it at that.
-Q: There’s been so many reports about dysfunction or whatever word you want to put on it. How much of that was a factor in this, away from the basketball?
-LACOB: That’s a very difficult word to deal with, dysfunction. I don’t think that’s accurate.
Look, the guy was obviously let go today, so were there questions about fit going forward between Mark Jackson and the Warriors? Yes. That’s obviously why we made the decision.
But dysfunction’s a very tough word, a very difficult word. I would not say that’s an accurate use of a term.
-Q: Was he having issues with staffers and did that cause you to question his tenure?
-LACOB: Look, I don’t think we should get into the great details of what did happen, other than to say that this is a decision that was based on what was good for the organization as a whole.
And when I say the organization as a whole I don’t mean just the team and just the 15 players that are involved and the coaching staff. I mean everybody. There’s 200 employees here.
So when we look at the organization going forward and the kind of coach we want and… not just the performance but everything else, all these factors matter. We took all that account.
-Q: Did you take Steph Curry’s opinion into account?
-LACOB: Of course.
-Q: Are you concerned that this might sour his attitude about the organization?
-LACOB: Not at all. Not at all.
We spoke with Steph Curry several times actually. And I think he’s disappointed because because he… I would even say he loves Mark Jackson as a friend as a coach. I understand that, we understand thatBut I think he also likes this organization a lot and he trusts this organization. And I think he trusts Bob Myers and the crew at basketball operations. And I think you can answer that question by just asking him.
You’ve got to give him more than a day to probably reflect on it. But I think you’ll probably find that he is supportive.
-Q: You came in and said you were willing to take risks–like hiring Mark Jackson. How much of a risk is it to fire a guy after going from 47 to 51…
-LACOB: You forgot the 23 (laughs).
-Q: How much does this weigh on the next guy, who might think, I could win 55 and that’s not enough?
-LACOB: It’s always easier to take a job when a franchise is downtrodden and out. You’re going to look good if you start from here (points to the floor).
And Mark did a good job overall on a coaching level. He did go 23-47-51, two sets of playoffs. That is not insignificant. We get that. We accept that.
I told Mark this morning, Bob told him. We appreciate his efforts in doing that. And he did have a big role in it.
The next coach that comes in, the expectations will probably–forget from us, but from everybody–probably will be high. That’s life. And it’s going to take someone who obviously is capable of handling that…. assuming we put together the right roster or give him the right players, that person is able to succeed…
I think someone who comes in and is scared of that probably isn’t the right person for the job.
-Q: How about your role. It’s looked as your decision, you’re clearly a hands-on owner. Are you at all worried that you’re a guy seen as never satisfied?
-LACOB: Look, I know that’s out there. But the truth is, this is Bob Myers’ decision.
I have the final say, yes. And he has input certainly from Jerry as a consultant and adviser, and from Kirk and Travis. That is our group, OK? And we are a consensus kind of decision-making group.
This is his decision (pointing to Myers). This is his fire and his hire and I have certainly a role in it, no question.
But to put all the onus on me, as I’m some sort of too tough ogre, I think… somebody people would like to create in stories. It’s not really true.
I think I and we are realistic. We think we had a good year. People ask the question, did we have too high an expectation? And I hear it all the time that we somehow expected to go to the championship round.
We never said that. Did you ever say that (to Myers)? Never. I never said that.
We said we wanted to be better than we were last year, and a reasonable expectation for better is to be in the top four. And to obviously have home-court advantage.
We did improve the team on paper versus last year and we thought that was a reasonable expectation.
We did not achieve that. We’re not blaming anyone, necessarily. I think if you would go down and ask Steph Curry, which I did, or if you would go to ask Mark Jackson, as we did actually in his meeting this morning with us, he would say the same thing.
Kind of expected maybe to do a little bit better.
Having said that, we had a good year. We just didn’t excel at the level that we had hoped to.
So, you know, I don’t know what else to say about that. I think having expectations is the mark of a good organization. Having goals is the mark of a good organization. And I’m not going to apologize for having high goals.
-Q: Was 51-31 unsatisfactory?
-LACOB: I would not say it’s unsatisfactory. I would say that it did not meet our–probably–our goals.
-Q: Was that due to coaching?
-LACOB: No, I don’t know that I can honestly say that it was from coaching, or it was from injuries… There’s a lot of factors that go into this.
It’s hard to say. I know there are some people that think we should’ve been, oh, five or six or seven games better because we lost some easy games at home. I did comment to you in fact in February that the home losses were disturbing.
But I didn’t blame anybody at the time and I still don’t blame necessarily coaches or players or Bob Myers for not getting another addition at the trade deadline. It isn’t anybody’s fault necessarily.
It’s just, that’s what it is. Could we maybe have been a little better? Yeah.
-Q: Did you have contract negotiations with Jackson last off-season? There were discussions, correct?
-LACOB: I did not. Bob maybe you can comment on that.
-MYERS: We had some discussions. I’m not going to get into the details of it; but we did have discussions.
-Q to LACOB: So you approved those discussions. At some point last year you were ready to move forward with Jackson with a new deal. What changed?
-LACOB: Well, I think we had discussions. We had some discussions. We considered that, he considered that. We weren’t on the same page, I think it’s fair to say.
-MYERS: And that’s OK.
-LACOB: That’s OK. We weren’t on the same page and we were fine with that. The truth is, and this is something I think if you’re going to take anything from this discussion, this interview… I think you should understand this…
This idea that somehow a contract extension should’ve been done last summer, that would’ve been highly unusual in the NBA. We were halfway through, we picked up the fourth year, so we were half-way through a four-year deal.
And he was coming off a good year, his first good year, one good year. It’s not like we won the championship.
So I think that’s an unfair criticism of us, whoever has made it, if anyone has made it, that we didn’t extend him last year. I don’t think it was unusual at all.
Now, there were I think four coaches in the NBA right now, this year, two in fact that are still playing in the playoffs, that are on the last year of their deal. Is that correct? (Note: Wittman, Stotts and McHale, and Casey was before his new deal.)
So my point is, that’s in the last year of a deal. We probably understand the idea of a lame-duck. Daryl Morey was quoted I think recently he doesn’t believe in this whole lame-duck thing with coaches’ contracts.
I think we do see the concept there that that could be problematic, if you go coach into a lame-duck year without a contract. It’s not to say we wouldn’t ever do that or that we wouldn’t have ever considered that.
But I think clearly Mark did not want to be a lame-duck; we probably didn’t to put him that situation. So it kind of wasn’t an option.
But last summer? Pretty early quite frankly to be having that conversation. And I don’t think it should be a criticism.
-Q: But you had some talks to extend his deal, then a year later you fire him. What changed?
-LACOB: Well, everything changes every day in the NBA. And we had a year that went a long, and there were certainly organizational issues, without getting into any details, and we’re not going to, that we would have to say were not ideal.
I think that the decision to not bring Mark back is not willy-nilly. There is a reason. There are reasons. I would say it’s less based on performance that is win-loss record and perhaps slightly more based on overall philosophy.
-Q: Did you perhaps think that you had gone as far as you were going to with Jackson and you need another coach to take you to the next level?
-LACOB: I do believe that we want–our goal should be to get better every year. There’s always room for improvement until you win the championship. Every team fails at some level unless you’re the last guy standing.
So I will say that, from a personal standpoint, having been in the venture capital industry for 30 years and 70 start-ups, 70 companies that have built and grown, it is very rare to see a CEO be the CEO from the start-up all the way to the equivalent of winning a championship.
Maybe you could cite somebody like Steve Jobs, who was able to do that, run a start-up, a high-growth phase company, and a mature multi-billion-dollar company. And even he was fired, by the way, along the way. Even Steve Jobs.
So I do think there is this concept, which I happen to subscribe to, which is there is the right CEO, the right leader for an organization at different phases or different stages of its growth cycle.
And one could say that, it is possible, you could conclude, that maybe Mark was the perfect coach at the time three years ago. Because actually he was a good choice. Mark Jackson came in here, changed the culture of the basketball team.
Mark Jackson came in here and had a tough first year and then turned it around on the court. He did that. He gets kudos for that. Gets credit for that. Cannot take that away from him.
And I would say even this playoff series, he was not out-coached. He asked me that this morning and I said, ‘You were not out-coached.’
You have to understand that going forward there may be a different task or a different goal than there was in the last three years. I know that’s a hard concept for people to understand in sports perhaps.
But there is an element of that that probably weighs on my thinking certainly, and probably on Bob’s, that there is the right coach for the right time, the right situation. And I just think it’s our thinking at this point in time that he’s probably not the right coach for us going forward, given all of the circumstances.
-Q: What’s the general profile for candidates now?
-LACOB: I think rather than comment on that today, because I think it’s really a whole different subject, we’re going to beg off that question. We’re going to take our time in this process and we’re going to interview a number of people. I think you (Myers) said that earlier today.
We have obviously a very good idea of what we’re interested in. But to be sure and to do the appropriate job looking for a coach, that this requires and is necessary, we will interview multiple people and make sure we’re doing the right thing.
-Q: A guy like Steve Kerr might have an opportunity, might need to know quickly. Is Kerr someone on your mind? Would you be able to react quickly?
-LACOB: We could hire a coach tomorrow, we could hire a coach a week from now, we could hire a coach a month from now. We could hire someone by free agency.
I think Bob and I agreed not (to be tied) to a timeline. We’ll know when we have the right coach–after having met with him and talked with him. We have not met with anybody.
-Q: Are you interested in Steve Kerr?
-LACOB: I’m not going to comment on who’s a candidate at this point. You can speculate and others have speculated. (Looks to Myers.)
-MYERS: I was wondering what you were going to say. What I said is we’re not going to publicly go over our coaching search.
-LACOB: All I will say (about Kerr) is it’s known that all of us know him. I’ve known him for 20 years. I think very highly of him as an individual–a great human being as well as a great basketball mind, I believe, and a great pedigree.
Having said that, we haven’t spoken with him yet. We haven’t interviewed anybody and we’re going to take our time and we’re going to interview people. He might be one of them.
-Q: Would there be any reluctance to follow a coach you hired without any experience with another guy who has no coaching experience?
-LACOB: Are you asking whether we’d consider someone who hasn’t coached before? I think we’d consider it.
-Q: How much of an issue was it that Mark did not move up here, buy a house, get his family up here? Was that an issue?
-LACOB: We did not require Mark to do that when he was hired three years ago. In retrospect, I think if asked I think he would also agree to what I’m going to say, which is, maybe it would’ve been a good thing.
But we did not require it, so you can’t blame him.
Would we require in the future? I think we would and I’ll let you draw whatever you want from that.
-Q: Were his strong religious beliefs–and the public nature of it–any problem for you at all?
-LACOB: I don’t really want to answer that question because I don’t know that there’s a good answer one way or the other.
I don’t have a problem with Mark’s religious beliefs in any way, manner, shape or form. And he’s a good person. He did a good job here. And we were glad to have him here as a coach and I’ll leave it at that. He’s not going to be the coach going forward.
-Q: You will not be the most popular guy with Warriors fans…
-LACOB: Been there before. (Smiles.)
-Q: Do you accept that? Do you embrace that this is your role at some point?
-LACOB: You mean to be unpopular?
-Q: To make unpopular decisions.
-LACOB: This is not a popularity contest, OK? There is no chance, and I mean no chance, that whatever we do, whatever Bob does as the GM of this team,  it is not going to be loved by everybody. It is not going to be universally acclaimed by everybody.
We know best, we hope. Because it is our… we know all the details, we’re the guys on the inside. We know what we feel we need to do.
We will listen to a lot of people, form an opinion, and then try to do what we think is the right thing. If it’s unpopular, it’s unpopular.
I think what’s popular is that we deliver a good product, that we deliver a winner and that people that come here are entertained. And I think we’ve done a pretty good job in the three years that we’ve been around, of increasing win totals, and our season-ticket based has climbed tremendously and fans seem to have a good time at times.
So we’re popular in that sense. This decision or another specific decision at any given time may be unpopular. Certainly the trading of Monta Ellis, as you allude to, for Andrew Bogut, a guy who couldn’t play at the time, was unpopular. But I think it proved to be overall a very good decision. I don’t think many would argue with that.
So I would just ask our fans to give us the benefit of the doubt that I think we know what we’re doing and I think we’re right and we deliver.
-Q: Do you think Jackson had a bunker mentality and was that tough to deal with?
-LACOB: I think Mark in his next job probably needs to do a better job managing up and sideways, is one way to put it. Managing down, managing to his players, obviously a pretty good job. Most of his players seemed to really like playing for him. They played hard for him. Which is really important in the NBA.
I think if you asked him, I think he would realize–maybe give him some time to answer this–that he probably could do a little better job of managing up and sideways, is the way to put it.
But look, I’m not here to bash or be critical of him.
We could do some things better, too, right?
I will tell you that this idea that somehow me, I don’t get along with him or this is somehow between me… it’s not. First of all, I hardly really deal with him. It’s Bob. Bob is his counterpart in basketball operations.
I go see him every game–see him before and after every game. I don’t think I’ve ever had a heated exchange. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad exchange in any way with Mark.
So I think we get along really well. We may have some differences in philosophy per se, but I think we get along well. And I think Bob can probably say the same thing for the most part.
It’s not like there was a bad relationship here.