OAKLAND, Calif. – It was his team when he was a kid. Bob Myers saw his first Golden State Warriors game in the early 1980s, when he was 7 or 8.
“My love for the NBA started with this team.’’ This team which now in a different way truly is Bob Myers’ team.
Myers was elevated to general manager on Tuesday, a surprise if only in the timing. Eventually the job was going to be his, but no one, including Myers, thought it would be so quickly, so suddenly.
Only a year ago, April 2011, Myers left a career as a players agent, a man who in a sense was in the sales business, to go to work for the Warriors, the woebegone Warriors, as an assistant GM.
“He has the total package,’’ his former coach at UCLA, Jim Harrick said of Myers on that hiring.
Now he has the total control, within reason, selected to take over from Larry Riley, who will be retained by the organization in a lesser capacity.
Now he’s in charge of the franchise he imagined himself running when in elementary school Myers came over the hill from the Diablo Valley to watch Joe Barry Carroll, Ricky Green and Larry Smith.
“It’s a personal thrill,’’ said Myers. Also a significant problem. The Warriors have missed the playoffs 17 of the last 18 seasons, including this one.
The Warriors have gone through owners, coaches, players and years of frustration.
“I don’t know why we’re in the position we’re in,’’ said Myers, “But it’s got to change.’’
He’s not boasting, just promising. Myers, 37, grew up in Danville, “15 miles from here,’’ played basketball at Monte Vista High and then was a walk-on at UCLA, who, earned a scholarship and from his cult following gained the nicknamed “Forrest Gump.’’
He went to Loyola law and then represented athletes as an agent, negotiating $575 million in contracts.
Myers is given credit for engineering what probably was the biggest trade deadline transaction of this lockout-shortened season, which brought the Warriors the big man they’ve needed seemingly forever, Andrew Bogut, from Milwaukee, in exchange for high-scoring guard Monta Ellis.
It was not a popular deal in Northern California. Maybe the Warriors weren’t winners, but Ellis was a star. And Bogut, although 7 feet, still was recovering from a broken ankle. Yet it was a necessary deal. And a courageous deal.
“The owner (Joe Lacob) was forced to look at us making a big decision,’’ said Myers. “I’m not saying I’m responsible for the trade, but he got to see the part I played and gave him confidence. He probably looked at it as, ‘Did he meet my expectations?’ and I think he felt I did.’’
Lacob, a venture capitalist, and Peter Guber, a Hollywood producer, bought the Warriors a couple of years ago. They are, like so many of those new to sports, impatient and maybe impetuous. They’ve been able to do what they wanted in business, and it’s their intent to do the same with their teams.
Not that an NBA franchise which gets to the playoffs only one year out of 18 should be left unchanged. And the last few months, Lacob has been changing.
He brought Mark Jackson out of a broadcast booth to coach. He oversaw the Ellis-for-Bogut trade. He’s hinting he will move the Warriors across the Bay to San Francisco. And he selects a new GM, albeit only in name since Myers was one of those previously making suggestions.
When asked the inevitable question, Myers said, “I think I’m ready. This is the only job, working in sports, I’ve known my whole life. I’ve been touching the NBA for 15 years. ... Most importantly what I learned, if anything, in sports it’s a small fraternity, and the people you meet will help you do your job.’’
When Myers started recruiting as an agent in the late 1990s, one of the first players he met was Kobe Bryant.
“He told me he was going to win 10 championships, and I didn’t believe him,’’ Myers remembered. “But he’s won five. You have to have a relationship with the players on your team. I think I learned how to communicate, to speak a language a player can relate to, and that will be beneficial.’’
An agent sells. A GM, in effect, buys. “Why I made the career change,’’ he explained, “was as an agent you’re executing a lot of one-off transitions, but working with a team you need to make sure all the pieces fit together.’’
The new man at the top appears to be a perfect fit.
“When the words ‘general manager’ sit next to your name you have a responsibility to make the decisions. I was never promised the job. Rarely do you get to accomplish something you never thought you could.’’