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Warriors owner Joe Lacob on Steve Kerr: ‘I knew him through friends — and through golf, quite frankly’

May 15, 2014, 11:55 AM EDT

Denver Nuggets v Golden State Warriors Denver Nuggets v Golden State Warriors

The Warriors fired Mark Jackson, because he didn’t fit.

They hired Steve Kerr, because he did.

I believe both those moves were made without any malicious intent and without considering race. But that doesn’t mean race didn’t play a factor.

Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group and David Aldridge of have already written thoughtfully about the role of race in the firing of Jackson, who is black. Given how the Warriors and Kerr, who is white, have discussed their courtship, the issue should not fade silently into the background without further consideration.

Warriors owner Joe Lacob, who is white, via Sam Amick of USA Today:

“I knew him through friends — and through golf, quite frankly,” Lacob said of Kerr. “I’ve been on golf trips with Steve before, so I know him socially for many years. He’s best friends with one of my best friends and some other people, so I’ve known him, but not necessarily that close or that professionally as has been portrayed.

“He is certainly somebody who we have always liked, sort of a great, intelligent guy. So he was on our list, and when we decided to make a change he was on our short list of people who we wanted to talk to.”

Kerr, via Tim Kawakami of Talking Points:

And I’ve known Joe actually a long time through a mutual friend, a venture capitalist in the Bay Area. So we’ve been on golf trips together.

The familiarity for sure was helpful and it helped everybody relax and just sort of… be themselves.

This is how racism manifests itself.

What percentage of black families relative to white families have opportunities to belong to the type of golf clubs Lacob belongs to and plays at?

For a long time in America, country-club membership was exclusive and limited by ethnicity. Even as those walls are falling as society becomes more tolerant, that past racism still lingers as all clubs tend to attract members with previous connections, and those connections can trickle down generations.

There’s also the issue of wealth, a requirement for access to the nation’s top golf courses. Through discrimination, blacks have been denied access to housing, schools and jobs — opportunities to accumulate wealth. Without that in, blacks have fewer opportunities to make impressions on those, like Lacob, in position of power.

Personal connections matter. There’s no denying that. Kerr’s hiring proves it.

Kerr might be incredibly qualified and absolutely worthy of the job. I’m not suggesting otherwise. But his prior relationship with Lacob got his foot in the door and helped him rise to the top of the search.

When there are multiple qualified candidates, those connections matter. Kerr had a tiebreaker other candidates like Lionel Hollins did not.

There’s no easy solution. Lacob is entitled to have a coach he’s comfortable with.

Perhaps, the best solution is introspection during situations like this – Lacob consciously evaluating whether factors, even ones out of his control, have led to bias due to race. That would help ensure the Warriors have the “best” coach, whatever that means to Lacob.

Maybe that happened here. I’m not privy to Lacob’s internal dialogue.

But for Lacob to wantonly discuss his and Kerr’s friendship through golf suggests it didn’t.

  1. asimonetti88 - May 15, 2014 at 12:03 PM

    The issue that Warriors fans should be considered about here isn’t race, but rather that this is a sign of how hands-on the Warriors’ owners really are and want to be. Jackson was not an elite coach, but he’s also not a bad one either. But he didn’t want to give up power to management and ownership. He wanted to run it his way. Ownership didn’t want that and so he was out. SVG probably would have gone to GS if he could have gotten some power to keep ownership out of his way, evidenced by his higher-power position he took with Detroit. Steve Kerr is a sign that ownership wants someone that can do what they want: he’s a friend of Lacob and will likely be willing to serve as a lackey for ownership.

  2. GT - May 15, 2014 at 12:09 PM

    Invoking the race card is quite a stretch with this and poor form sensationalism.

    • kinggw - May 15, 2014 at 12:21 PM

      The race card wasn’t invoked. When you fire a coach who took you from the doldrums of the NBA to the playoffs in consecutive years and hire a guy with no track record, there are questions to be asked. The writer didn’t accuse Lacob of being racist. He simply put the facts of the situation out for people to draw their own conclusion.

      I don’t think Kerr’s hiring is an example of racism, I think its the sign of incompetent owners who are far too hands on. It’s a shame that people use the automatic defense mechanism, aka claiming the race card, instead of having a honest discussion about race. You have to be extremely naive or living under a rock to think race doesn’t matter in our society.

      • money2long - May 15, 2014 at 12:27 PM

        King is right. Everything he said.

      • bkbell3 - May 15, 2014 at 7:50 PM

        Yes he said race was and wasn’t involved just like this hack of a writer always contradicts his own points. Kidd, who is black with no coaching exp. got his job thru his relationships within the nets org. and replaced a white coach, no racism? jackson was black when he was hired and after 3 years did ok with a talented team but clashed with co-workers and upper mgt. Which gets people of all races fired alot of times. So 2 black former players with no coaching exp. nor front office exp. get hired no problem but a white former player with front office exp.but no coaching exp. being hired cause of his networking skill is racism?smh. Magic said because of his networking skills and friendships could of owned 2 diff. teams but that is ok? Bomani Jones said something about running the black coaches out of the league? Kidd replaced and experienced white coach, coach of the year in George Karl who is white was replaced by a black coach with no head coaching exp. D’Antoni who is white was replaced by 2 different black coaches who are below average coaches. White coaches have replaced black coaches and black have replaced white. Sure there is racism in our world but the race card is being played for everything no mater what happens.smh. Networking and friendships help in all walks of life but merit should get you the job. But merit is subjective which is why Karl got let go and Kidd,Jackson and kerr got hired and why jackson got let go also. All these guys and more got jobs due to who the know and who recommended them etc. This writer is a joke.

    • casualcommenter - May 15, 2014 at 1:42 PM

      Completely agreed.

      Again, these same owners hired Mark Jackson a couple of years ago, and I’m like 80% sure he was black back then too.

      • kclanton80 - May 15, 2014 at 5:57 PM

        As we have seen with the Donald sterling situation, Hiring a black coach doesn’t mean that you aren’t racist. He sees his black employess as his property.
        Slave owners rapped and had children with black slaves all while keeping them in captivity and treating them like dogs. Donald sterling was outed by a black woman that he was trying to convince himself was not black because he enjoyed sleeping with her. Racism takes many many forms. But of according to many (not all) white Americans it just doesn’t exist.

      • ahollins05 - May 15, 2014 at 7:31 PM

        You are correct, but he also paid him the going rate for someone without experience. Kerr is getting paid over double per year, and has never coached at any level. Jason Kidd is also being paid less. You’ll be hard pressed to find a rookie black coach to be given the benefit of the doubt the way kerr has.

      • bkbell3 - May 15, 2014 at 8:02 PM

        Ahollins. that’s what happens in a bidding war as is seen every year with players that many teams want over paying for them. Kerr has just as much merit if not more exp.because of his front office exp. than kidd or jackson but no one was competing for their services but the teams that hired them. And owners make dumb business decisions all the time. { see MJ}. But the race card might get you more stuff so why not use it every where so as to diminish the focus on real and actual racist acts. smh

    • sire2334 - May 15, 2014 at 4:42 PM

      I’m not getting ready to call anyone a racist because I don’t know what’s in another man’s heart. But this author isn’t far off and those who consistently stick their heads in the sand on the issue (usually those of caucasian decent) are hilarious. You guys act like this world and country for that matter are marshmallows and puppies. I’d hate to spin your comfortable life in a tail spin but that’s not the case.

      Again, not just looking at this story alone but as a whole when I see comments under stories such as this. No you’re not racist but you’re comfortably oblivious. Yes, I realize that I’m outnumbered on this site and will receive a ridiculous number of thumbs down basically adding to my point. Love the dialogue though.

  3. hwatt - May 15, 2014 at 12:10 PM

    Sounds like standard politics that exists in pretty much every organization in… the world. Ppl hire ppl they are comfortable with. That’s why some insist the solution to black unemployment is black-owned business. It goes both ways.

    But above all, organizations who hire based on friendships, regardless of performance, will probably not make it to the very top anyway. But they sure will have fun middling at the country club.

    • kinggw - May 15, 2014 at 12:27 PM

      It goes both ways? Signs like false equivalence to me.

      I do agree that it is standard politics that occurs in lots of organizations, and that’s part of the problem. This article is less about race and more about cronyism. There is a race factor here, but its not the driving issue.

    • casualcommenter - May 15, 2014 at 1:45 PM

      Exactly. Nepotism is bad, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not necessarily race based.

      For example, Stan Van Gundy is hiring Otis Smith to be his GM even though Smith’s record as GM of the Magic is mixed at best because Van Gundy remembers how Smith backed him up in fights with ownership.

      That’s nepotism, but one guy is white and the other guy is black. As a Pistons fan, you can be upset that Van Gundy is prioritizing loyalty over competence, but again, that’s an example of nepotism that doesn’t have any negative racial implications.

  4. spursareold - May 15, 2014 at 12:11 PM

    I’m guessing any past NBA coach with a “name”, black or white, would be able to golf at any of those clubs.

    • asimonetti88 - May 15, 2014 at 12:27 PM

      well they should keep Charles Barkley out! That swing is ugly!

  5. muathjam21 - May 15, 2014 at 12:42 PM


  6. ranfan12 - May 15, 2014 at 12:51 PM

    Quite surprising. I wasn’t expecting the topics race and steve kerr to mix

  7. manhandler1 - May 15, 2014 at 1:01 PM

    He says it’s not racism while bringing up that it might be because of race?

  8. m4a188 - May 15, 2014 at 1:13 PM

    America, it’s either religion, race, or abortion.

    • fm31970 - May 15, 2014 at 1:37 PM

      So was race brought up when Brain Shaw was hired in Denver to replace George Karl?

      How many other people who belong to this “golf club” were also in the running

  9. jcmeyer10 - May 15, 2014 at 1:20 PM

    That’s why my dad kept telling me golf opened doors. Maybe I could get a sweet job I have no experience doing and get paid millions.

    *Hey Boss Man, I’m taking off for the day… something something food poisoning*

  10. papichulo55 - May 15, 2014 at 1:21 PM

    The NBA game has the brightest of futures because each game features the best players in the world, regardless of race, religion or social status. However, its not surprising that front offices can be affected by the Ít’s not what you know, but who you know’ culture. Over time, certain owners will come to learn that their front office business practices must be consistent with the Ón the court’ side of the business.. Try to get the best people available.

    Phil Jackson thought that Steve Kerr fit that description. Phil didn’t get where he is with any agenda outside of winning basketball games. As much as I like Mark Jackson and Lionel Hollins, I cannot play a race card here. I wish Steve good luck.

  11. Dogsweat - May 15, 2014 at 1:38 PM

    Steve is the next Red Auerbach, San Francisco will build a dynasty.

    • shadowshand - May 15, 2014 at 5:12 PM

      Put down the crack pipe.

  12. azarkhan - May 15, 2014 at 1:39 PM

    “My friends who own Golden State asked me to join them. I could have been an owner of the Golden State Warriors.” – Magic Johnson

    And all this time I thought Magic was black.

    • savvybynature - May 15, 2014 at 2:13 PM

      Well Magic golfs so obviously he is white, duh!

  13. cueghost - May 15, 2014 at 1:47 PM

    I wonder if Kerr will have as terrible of a first year as Shaw had… Just because one coach wins 50+ games with a team, doesn’t guarantee that just anybody can come in and do it… Just ask the Nuggets!!!

    • spursareold - May 15, 2014 at 3:13 PM

      Denver wasn’t the same team with Iggy gone and McGee and Gallinari playing a combined 5 games.

      • duhwighthoward - May 15, 2014 at 3:31 PM

        I love Shaw, but not having JuhVale was probably a blessing. Sitting Andre Miller was a mistake too. Here’s hoping they make the playoffs next season – SHAWshank Redemption!

  14. csbanter - May 15, 2014 at 2:47 PM

    Why would Kerr or any other NBA coach want to be told how to run his offense ? Isn’t the allure of coaching is making decisions based on ones experience and knowledge ? So having a “guru” tell you how to run a system is the best way to coach. Would Jackson have succeeded if he followed to the letter Jerry Krause in game strategy.

    • unxpexted1 - May 15, 2014 at 4:22 PM

      Well apparently the owners didn’t like the way Jackson ran his offense and wanted to get involved in how he ran things, so who’s to say they wont tell steve kerr how to run the offense either?

  15. ProBasketballPundit - May 15, 2014 at 2:58 PM

    “Steve wears the heck out of pleated pants. And wait til you see him dock a boat. This guy is definitely qualified to coach the team.”

    • bkbell3 - May 15, 2014 at 8:15 PM

      About as qualified as Kidd and Jackson because they had the same amount of coaching exp. when they got their jobs.smh

  16. au1978 - May 15, 2014 at 3:14 PM

    Wow, so like Pastor Jeremiah Wright, Donald Sterling has set ablaze a new conversation about race in America.

  17. breesus09 - May 15, 2014 at 4:51 PM

    Lets all take a deep breath & stop crying racism on everything that happens bw a white & black person. I’m not saying that we should have an honest & open discussion about race, but not every issue that arises is bc of race

  18. unxpexted1 - May 15, 2014 at 5:02 PM

    This is more of the good ole boy system than it is race…..BUT, historically black people are left out of that system.

    • bkbell3 - May 15, 2014 at 8:20 PM

      But the NBA is all about the good old boy system because so many former players black and white get coaching and front office jobs. It’s why guys like Mo Cheeks keeps getting jobs or Brown or D’Antoni Or the former GM of Orlando etc.

  19. antistratfordian - May 15, 2014 at 7:24 PM

    I never thought I’d say this, but I’m actually growing tired of having to talk about race so much these days. I only have enough energy for this story to say that I’m not surprised and that I agree with David Aldridge.

  20. campcouch - May 15, 2014 at 11:36 PM

    so if Mark Jackson golfed he would’ve been ok? what a dummy.

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