By now the hiring of 22-year old Kirk Lacob as Director of Basketball Operations has been re-hashed quite a bit. I was initially shocked and appalled by the hiring. Although it wasn’t officially announced, somehow word got out that Joe Lacob hired his son to work in the front office and has been involved since training camp. Larry Riley gave Kirk Lacob the title, perhaps a bit of brown-nosing to his new boss, but nevertheless, Joe Lacob has been adamant that Kirk Lacob is “lowest on the totem pole” in a four-man front office.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I have been impressed with father Lacob’s demeanor and tone, but “lowest on the totem pole” usually means mopping floors and pouring coffee. But the kid’s a Stanford grad and is good with numbers, we’re told. He has played basketball and received numerous Division III scholarships and created the Stanford Basketball Club. The topper: he even had a job lined up to work for Steve Kerr in Phoenix till Kerr decided to bolt. He’s qualified!
Yet, he’s still the son of Joe Lacob. And we found out he will be “Director of Basketball Operations” immediately after the sale of the Golden State Warriors closed.
Not that nepotism doesn’t exist in this world, especially in professional sports where there really is no standard in qualification – people get jobs in professional sports because of someone they know (you don’t apply for front office position through craigslist), but this was clearly a PR hurdle that Lacob & Co. could have avoided. You don’t want to shove the taste of a Jed York or a James Dolan into the fans’ mouths the first day on the job.
It concerned me a bit that for a person who has quietly hinted at being the anti-Cohan, this situation wasn’t handled a bit more delicately. Why did he let Larry Riley come up with a commanding title? Why doesn’t he just say “he’s my son and I want him to get experience?” Didn’t he realize we’d have concerns of daddy’s boy getting ahead of himself to try to take over the world? I mean, these things went through my head when I was 22. Except my father’s real estate firm has a no-family policy for this exact reason and I had to accept and respect it. The concern for usurping a lot of deserved, hard working people is always there, between the lowest and the highest point in the totem pole, when blatant nepotism is exercised.
Of course, we’d be hypocrites if we didn’t acknowledge that nepotism has its upside too. Look at Keith Smart, although the jury’s still out on him, he seems well received by all the players (also from those who are no longer with the Warriors). Don Nelson, from day one, had him pegged as future coach. What about Donnie Nelson, Don Nelson’s son? He clearly did well for himself because he was Don Nelson’s son. And Stephen Silas is an assistant because his father was a former NBA player and coach and Don Nelson’s former teammate. And Larry Riley is there because he’s Don Nelson’s friend.
But what sets this apart is that Joe Lacob is the face of change, the face of smart decisions. He should at least make himself look better than the previous owner by not allowing his son to be given an awesome title. So all in all, it may not be a problem (in fact, it may turn out to be a great apprenticeship), but it was a bad title and bad timing.