The Santa Cruz Warriors open the NBA Developmental League season on Saturday, November 12th, and they will have some names on their roster familiar to Golden State Warriors fans: Cameron Jones, Elgin Cook, Scott Wood, and Phil Pressey. In addition, they recently announced that rookie center Damian Jones will be making his season debut in Santa Cruz on November 25 against the Sioux Falls Skyforce, as he rehabilitates from a pectoral muscle injury that required surgery.
Golden State Warriors have used the slogan “Strength in Numbers” over the past two seasons. Now that their roster is more top-heavy than before, it appears as if they will need to find some additional strength—especially at center—and that’s where the D-League team comes in.
Just two years removed from graduating college and in his second year with the team Kent Lacob finds himself at the helm of the Santa Cruz Warriors as their General Manager. This is not the first time one of owner Joe Lacob’s sons has stormed into the spotlight within the Warriors organization; back in 2010, Kent’s older brother Kirk Lacob was named the Warriors’ Director of Basketball Operations. Given the lack of experience, and relation to the new CEO, there were some concerns over nepotism to which Joe responded, "forget titles; they don't mean anything."
And he was right. By all accounts the elder Lacob brother acquitted himself well, first in his short stay with Golden State, and then again as General Manager in Santa Cruz. So well in fact that he has since moved back up to become assistant General Manager for Golden State, opening the door for Kent to take the helm in Santa Cruz. So, for those of us interested in seeing these young players develop, Kent had this to say when asked about what he looks for when he scouts players:
I think it’s really helpful to watch games in person, first off. I think that’s one thing I didn’t realize before I actually started going to scout games. There are a lot of guys who are really talented across the board.
These are guys who are stars of their teams who play different roles depending on situations of where they are . In person, you can notice a lot of different things as far as the intricacies of how they are interacting with their teammates.
Kent projects an unassuming presence but holds himself with a quiet confidence that seems to be a stark contrast to the brashness of his father. You may recognize him as the guy who got brutally left hanging by Klay Thompson last season.
When I asked Kent about the “secret ingredient” to the Lacob family’s success, he demurred:
Well, I haven’t done anything to show that I deserve to be put in the same class. You know, I don’t know about any secret formula—or if there is—I’m still looking for it. Obviously it’s been great to have my dad as a resource. Just watching the way he goes about his business and how to run a basketball team; it’s a great example to have.
The two buzz words that he always uses that stick out to me are “relentless” and “great.” If you listen to his interviews, he often says “be relentless in your pursuit of greatness” he never uses the word “good.”
To me, it means not accepting the status quo and always looking for ways to get better, ways to improve. And also, understanding your limitations and flaws, know that you aren’t always going to be the smartest guy in the room so being able to listen to the advice of the people you have around you.
We try to focus on bringing in a good group and rely on the advice that they have. It’s not really the Lacob family, it’s the whole organization, the group of people that we’ve put together.
Looking back on what the Warriors franchise has been able to do since Lacob’s ownership group took over, it’s clear to me that there is something special with how Joe goes about pursuing this greatness that Kent mentioned. They are not just doing the right things, but they are very vocal in expressing these priorities and standing behind the process. And just like Kent says, it’s not about being happy with the results, this is a franchise that has continual improvement as one of it’s core values. And this extends to their players as well:
The big thing we look for and emphasize at Golden State is “can a guy dribble, pass, and shoot?” Beyond that, to make it to the next level, the big thing is: you have to have a translatable skill. Something in a skill set that the player has that they can take and use at the next level. Maybe its 3-point shooting, or maybe it’s that crazy competitive attitude like a Draymond Green, or always being where the ball is.
There’s a ton of different examples of what that could be. Having a nose for the ball, just knowing where to be. Not every guy is going to be a star in the league, be the leading scorer. So we are also looking for guys that have a skill set that translates to the NBA.
On a personal note, this was my first interview sanctioned by GSoM, but I just had to ask one last question that I often use to gauge a person. To wit: I asked Kent about one of the most divisive issues of our time: “Is a hot dog a sandwich?” Perhaps it was my personal bias, but I was comforted to hear his (obviously correct) answer:
That’s funny, you know, I actually asked this question to my staff during interviews? (laughs, then gets serious). No, I don’t think a hot dog is a sandwich. It’s it’s own classification of food, with a bun and a dog or sausage inside. You can’t put it on other bread, you can’t substitute non-hot dog-like products.”
I like this Kent guy, he gets it.
Something tells me if you can make it down to Santa Cruz, you’ll really enjoy seeing what they are doing down there.