Why Jerry West? Joe Lacob’s Warriors legacy depends on next coach

 @ibtimes on May 20 2011 7:21 PM

The Warriors are nowhere near the playoffs, but co-owner Joe Lacob is feeling the heat.  He understands perfectly well that his next decision may determine his legacy as the Warriors owner.  That decision is the hiring of the next Warriors head coach.

On Friday, the Warriors announced the hiring of Jerry West to their front office.  West will be serving in wide-ranging capacities, but none of his responsibilities will have any kind of decision making authority.    

No, it's very clear that Lacob wants the Hall of Fame legend to help Lacob himself make the decisions.

Why choose West?  Why not?  Not only was he a superb player and a decent coach, as GM of the Lakers in the 1980s, he built a dynasty that only rivaled that of the Celtics, and won Executive of the Year twice. 

The second time he won was for his work in saving the Memphis Grizzlies from being sold and turning the troubled franchise around.  The Grizzlies made the playoffs this year and their success is partially due to the foundation that West built.

West's basketball experience will be invaluable to Lacob in making decisions for the franchise he purchased last year.  Some of those decisions Lacob has already made like allowing holdover coach Keith Smart to stay one year before firing him, signing ineffective forward David Lee to a large contract, and standing pat on moving either star guards Monta Ellis or Stephen Curry.

These decisions are normally made by the front office, but Lacob has consistently indicated that he plans on being an active owner. 

Larry Riley and Robert Rowell, the actual front office held over from the Chris Cohan ownership, are widely known to be yes men that may be running out of time in the organization.

When Lacob purchased the team, he promised to take from his venture capital background, and bring many voices to the table in order build the team.  Lacob has brought in West in order to be a big voice on the basketball-side of the operations. 

The first major decision that will be made is the hiring of the new coach.  Among the list of growing candidates are former Timberwolves coach Kevin McHale, Lakers assistant coaches Brian Shaw and Chuck Pearson, Boston Celtics assistant coach Lawrence Frank, former Cavaliers coach Mike Brown, and Mavericks assistant coach Dwane Casey.

A decision will have to be made on the best candidates and any candidate will also have to be convinced to accept the top position at the troubled franchise.  West will be crucial to Lacob on both fronts. 

All this come back to the conclusion that Lacob knows the importance of a choosing the right coach and how the coach can affect the team for years to come.

Case in point is former Warriors coach Don Nelson who first joined the Warriors in 1988 and installed the run-TMC offense that focused on a philosophy of wide-open offense over defense.  Though the Warriors had moderate success, Nelson's personality clashed with the players and he was eventually run out of the team in 1995, leaving the team in shambles.

The Warriors then proceeded to hire 8 failed coaches before hiring Nelson again who had moderate success again, before leaving the team in its current fragile state.

Joe Lacob is an owner and not a basketball professional, but his legacy will largely depend on how successful the Warriors are on the basketball court.  Lacob will need all the help he can get when he hires his next coach.  It will be the most important decision of his short ownership tenure. 

To see the full press release on Jerrry West's hiring: click here

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