Professional sports are populated with team owners who made their fortunes doing other things, and believe they can work the same magic in the world of sports. Most of them learn the hard way that sports is a whole different game.
Then there’s Joe Lacob and Peter Gruber, principal owners of the Golden State Warriors, who proclaimed a new era for the bedraggled team when they put up $450 million for the franchise in 2010. You have to say they’ve delivered on their promise.
Both of them are successful guys with big egos who aren’t bashful about telling you how smart they are. Gruber is CEO of Mandalay Entertainment, a major player in the Hollywood entertainment industry, and Lacob is a partner in Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, one of the most successful Silicon Valley venture capital firms.
Gruber owns a small piece of the Los Angeles Dodgers, an outfit that knows how to spend big money for little return, and Lacob held 5 percent of the Boston Celtics when they bought the Warriors. He made sure everybody knew about his contributions to the Celtics’ success, which has been a marginal team for several years.
They didn’t waste any time overhauling a team that had been dismal for the 10 years it was owned by Chris Cohan. They brought in a president you just happened to be gay, hired a player agent as their general manager, and then got rid of everybody on the roster except Steph Curry.
They fired long-time coach Don Nelson and eventually replaced him with Mark Jackson, a former player turned broadcaster who had no experience as a coach. Jackson coached the team to consecutive winning seasons and playoff appearances for the first time in more than a decade.
But Lacob decided Jackson wasn’t a team player, so they replaced him with Steve Kerr, another former player, front office executive, and broadcaster who had no coaching experience. Just to show how committed they were to Kerr, the owners signed him to a five-year deal worth $25 million.
So far so good. Kerr coached the Warriors last year to their first championship since 1975, and established a new NBA record for wins this season, finishing with a 73-9 mark. They’re 2-0 in the first round of the playoffs entering tonight’s game against Houston.
Not one to faint false modesty, Lacob proclaimed recently that the organization is “light years” ahead of the competition. “We’ve crushed them on the basketball court, and we’re going to for years because of the way we’ve built this team,” he said.
“We’re light years ahead of probably every other team in structure, in planning, in how we’re going to go about things. We’re going to be a handful for the rest of the NBA to deal with for a long time.”
It’s tough to argue with him–after all, the team has posted a five-year regular season record of 262-133 after a decade of losing, won a championship, and is favored to win its second in a row. As the old saying goes, it ain’t bragging if you can do it.