Calling the Shots
Lafayette’s Bob Myers went from lifelong fan to the driving force behind one of the NBA’s hottest teams.
Sitting at a table at Chow in Lafayette, Bob Myers looks a lot like every other suburban dad in the restaurant. Wearing a sweater and jeans, Myers most stands out because of his six-foot, seven-inch frame, which makes people ask, “Did you play basketball?”
The answer, of course, is yes.
Basketball has been a lifelong passion for Myers since he was a little boy in Alamo, playing at St. Isadore’s and cheering for the Golden State Warriors. At age 39, Myers is as intense as ever about the game, but basketball is now a professional passion. For the past three seasons, Myers has been the general manager of the Warriors, putting together a team that is quickly making long-suffering fans forget about previous decades of sub–.500 seasons.
Since Myers took over as GM, the team had back-to-back playoff seasons, then kicked off the 2014–2015 season with the best start in franchise history. The Warriors’ 16-game winning streak, another team record, put them on the top shelf of the NBA, making fans think of the Golden State as the premium ticket in West Coast basketball.
“I know what it means for Warriors fans to see a winning team on the court,” says Myers, “because I’ve always been one of those fans, waiting for a winning team.”
Building a championship basketball team is the biggest challenge yet for Myers—a man whose entire adult life has been spent setting high goals for himself, then exceeding them with spectacular results.
A Lifelong Fan
Myers keeps the ticket from his first Warriors game in his wallet.
“My mom saved this for me,” he says, pulling out a tiny stub encased in a plastic envelope. He squints at the ticket to make out the date: January 15, 1982—a ticket in section 234, row K, to see the Warriors take on the New York Knicks at the Oakland Arena (now known as the Oracle Arena). “I remember going to that game with my family; a Friday night watching the Warriors seemed like the most exciting night of my life.”
As a teenager in Alamo, Myers played high school hoops at Monte Vista, then went to college at UCLA. Basketball wasn’t in his college game plan: He was a good high school player but wasn’t recruited by any major colleges. In fact, Myers was exploring UCLA’s crew program during his freshman year when he ran into an assistant basketball coach in the athletic department offices and was encouraged to try out for hoops instead of rowing. Not only did Myers make the team as a freshman, he played all four years at UCLA, and his efforts resulted in an athletic scholarship for the rest of his undergraduate studies. Playing basketball at UCLA gave Myers an early draft of his lifelong game plan: Work hard, raise your game to the next level, and then work even harder.
“I loved the journey of that experience,” says Myers, who was part of the Bruins’ national championship team in 1995. “I loved going to practice. I loved the camaraderie of my teammates, and most of all, meeting and exceeding my goals.”
His next goal was getting into law school; Myers wanted a legal education and figured he would use a law degree in a business career. While studying at Loyola Law School in L.A., he took an internship with Arn Tellem, one of the most powerful player agents in professional sports.
“I worked for Arn during the day and went to Loyola at night, and after that, went to downtown Los Angeles to the Staples Center to watch players [at Lakers and Clippers games],” says Myers.
The experience paid off big-time. Myers launched a career as a sports agent, negotiating an estimated $575 million in NBA contracts and representing nearly 20 NBA players, including Mark Madsen, a former rival from San Ramon High, who went on to a pro career with the Lakers and Timberwolves.
“Bob is a great leader and a very smart guy,” says Madsen, who is now on the Lakers’ coaching staff. “Hiring Bob was one of the best decisions the Warriors’ owners could make.”
Despite living in Lakers Land for 18 years, Myers remained a Warriors fan through thick and thin.
“I used to wear a Warriors sweatshirt to my law school classes and get teased by my fellow classmates because the Warriors were having some really tough years, and the Lakers had a championship run going, with players like Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant,” says Myers. “But I never considered being a Lakers fan just because I lived in L.A. I stuck with the team I had loved all my life; the Warriors have a fiercely loyal fan base. I’m one of those people in a lot of ways: I just happen to be the GM of the team now.”
The Puzzle Master
After about 14 years as an agent, Myers was approached by the Warriors’ new ownership group, headed by business mogul Joe Lacob and movie producer Peter Guber, and offered a job as assistant general manager. Myers’ knowledge of the game and business sense were well known from his agent days, and his love for the team was another big plus.
“As an agent, I had watched a lot of games with GMs over the years, and I noticed an interest that they had that I didn’t—winning,” says Myers. “As an agent, you’re there to watch your players, and who wins or loses the game is irrelevant. I love challenges, and this was such a unique experience and opportunity, especially for someone who had no management experience. How could I say no?”
The Warriors hired Myers in April 2011. The move didn’t just reunite Myers with his favorite basketball team, it allowed him to move back to the East Bay. Myers’ wife, Kristen, also grew up in Alamo—the couple knew each other as kids and were reintroduced in L.A. as adults. (The couple’s parents still live in the area, as do Myers’ brother and sister.)
The couple settled into a home in Lafayette’s Silver Springs neighborhood, so when Myers is not on the road with the team—or scouting college players across the country for next year’s draft—his schedule allows him to drop off his young daughters, Kayla, four, and Annabelle, two, at preschool before heading to Oakland for his day job. Being a good husband and dad are the only jobs he puts above everything else: Myers was invited to attend a Giants World Series game last fall with some business bigwigs but had to decline due to a trick-or-treating date with his daughters.
When he was brought onto the Warriors’ management team, Myers was expected to learn from veteran General Manager Larry Riley for several years. But in less than one year, Riley transferred to a director of scouting position, and Myers was promoted to GM. At age 37, Myers was put in charge of running his favorite team.
“As an agent, you tend to root for individual players but not for a team,” says Myers. “Not only does the GM position offer that element, it’s also fun because I have always been someone who loves puzzles. Putting a team together is like working out a complicated puzzle: You’re always staring at the board and asking, Does that piece fit, or does that piece fit?”
Some of the key puzzle pieces of Myers’ tenure as GM include signing the Warriors’ star guard Stephen Curry to a four-year contract extension for $44 million, an absolute bargain for an NBA star like Curry. Since then, Curry has become one of the most popular players in the game and is getting Most Valuable Player attention for his performance this season.
“The key word is fair,” says Myers, sounding more like a high school principal than a slick-talking wheeler-dealer out of Jerry Maguire. “As an agent, it was my job to get the player the highest amount of money. As a general manager, it’s just the opposite. But in every negotiation, each side has a goal in mind, and you want to respect the other side’s position. You need to be realistic about the market value of that player, and you don’t always know how a contract will work out.”
Another huge piece in the Warriors’ puzzle was signing Steve Kerr as head coach before the 2014/2015 season. Kerr is a former NBA player with five championship rings. Basketball writers expected Kerr to be coaching the New York Knicks this season before Myers convinced him otherwise. “It says a lot about how far our brand has come that we were able to compete with the New York Knicks on something like that and win,” says Myers.
“Bob didn’t have to twist my arm very hard,” says Kerr, during a Warriors practice in downtown Oakland. “I love the weather here, and my daughter is at Berkeley. But what was clear from Bob and the ownership group is that they want to win and are ready to win—and that’s what you want to hear.”
Kerr in the head coach position has certainly been a good fit: The team’s 21-2 start this season marked the best start to a coaching career in NBA history.
While the Warriors look like championship contenders this season, the longer-term future looks bright for the franchise as well. The team is planning to build a state-of-the-art arena in San Francisco by 2018. The venue could increase the team’s revenue substantially, especially with the Bay Area’s opportunities for high-tech sponsorships, which Myers hopes will open up resources to sign top players and cement the Warriors as the West Coast’s premier franchise for years to come. Myers says the organization is working hard to make sure East Bay fans who love watching games in Oakland will be just as happy at the new venue.
“We want to capture the magic that we have at Oracle and move it 11 miles,” he says.
While the future looks bright for Myers and the Warriors, the lack of job security keeps the GM humble.
“As an agent, you have some job security because you can represent 20 players from around the league. At this job, you can be fired at any time,” says Myers. “Would I like to stay in this position for a long time? Sure, absolutely, but that’s not up to me. I’m so happy to be a part of this organization. I’m happy to go to work every day and do my best to get the team to a good place.”
A good place would be the first Warriors championship since the year Myers was born. We’ll find out soon enough whether all the pieces in that puzzle are on the board this season, but Myers certainly believes the team is headed in the right direction.
“I’ve always subscribed to this: If you really work hard at something, if you really commit to it and bring a passion to it, then you usually will achieve some kind of success,” says Myers, who quotes U.S. president John Adams as easily as UCLA coach John Wooden when discussing motivational philosophy. “If you believe in hard work, persistence, and perseverance, in time, it will result in something good. I feel that with the Warriors. All of this recent success has come from a lot of hard work and a lot of determination.”
Four Key Pieces
Warriors GM Bob Myers says assembling a championship team is like fitting together the pieces of a complex puzzle. Here are four pieces that Myers has put into place since taking over the team.
March 13, 2012: Trade for Andrew Bogut.
The Warriors’ seven-foot center was acquired in a controversial trade involving popular guard Monta Ellis during Myers’ first year as GM. The trade has worked out well for Golden State, as the sharpshooting Curry has helped fans forget Ellis, while Bogut provides size and strength to the lineup. Bogut, who grew up in Australia, recently bought a house in Walnut Creek.
November 1, 2012: Stephen Curry extends.
The Warriors’ number-one pick in the 2009 draft has become one of the top players in the game and could go down as one of the game’s greatest-ever three-point shooters. Myers locked Curry into the extension following the 2011–2012 season, during which the Warriors’ guard suffered extended injuries. Curry recently bought a house in the East Bay suburbs with his wife and young daughter.
2014 Off-season: Klay Thompson stays.
Experts thought the Warriors’ number-one pick in 2011 was headed for Minnesota this off-season in a deal for center Kevin Love. Instead, Myers kept Thompson, a fantastic shooting guard and defensive player. “I’m ecstatic,” Thompson told the San Jose Mercury News when he found out he was staying with Golden State. “The Warriors believe in me. That makes me want to work that much harder.”
May 15, 2014: Signing Coach Kerr.
The Warriors’ new head coach, Steve Kerr, played with Michael Jordan during the Chicago Bulls’ championship three-peat from 1996 to 1998, then helped the San Antonio Spurs win two more titles. After his playing career, Kerr was an NBA television analyst, then worked in the front office with the Phoenix Suns before Myers convinced him to coach the Warriors.
1. Monte Vista Mustangs Class of 1993
Myers played varsity basketball for Monte Vista High in Danville and graduated in 1993. Monte Vista won its first state championship in 2014, but Myers couldn’t go root for his alma mater. “Technically, I’m actually not allowed to go to Monte Vista games,” says Myers with a laugh. “The NBA has a rule against its GMs going to high school games, which is probably a good thing in the big picture because they don’t want us scouting high school players.”
2. UCLA Bruins 1993–1997
Myers’ Southern California alma mater has won more national championship titles—11—than any other college. However, the Bruins’ most recent title was in 1995, when Myers was a sophomore. Myers made the team as a walk-on during his freshman year and earned an athletic scholarship.
3. Golden State Warriors 2011–2014
The East Bay’s NBA franchise won its only world championship on the West Coast during the 1974–1975 season. (Myers was born in 1975.) The Golden State Warriors came to Oakland from San Francisco in 1971. The team originated in Philadelphia in 1946, where it won two championships, before moving to San Francisco in 1962.