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Youth at the Helm

news2Meet 23-year-old Kirk Lacob, general manager for the Santa Cruz Warriors

Kirk Lacob, the 23-year-old general manager of the Warriors’ Development League team that will soon make Santa Cruz its new home, will commute to work from his home in the Marina District of San Francisco. He proposed the idea for a team helicopter to make the 75-mile commute south, but the Warriors’ finance department wasn’t having it, Lacob says.

It was worth a try.

Lacob is the son of Joe Lacob, the co-owner of the Golden State Warriors, and he’s enjoying the benefits of knowing the right people after college. He was promoted about a month ago from director of basketball operations for the Golden State Warriors to the team’s assistant general manager. Now he will also spend much of his time in Santa Cruz establishing the Warriors’ D-League affiliate team, which is moving from North Dakota.

Lacob grew up in Woodside, Calif., went to Menlo School and graduated from Stanford University in 2010. He was a walk-on player for a short time during his freshman year at Stanford and ran the university’s club basketball program during his sophomore year, which he says taught him a lot about heading up an organization. He earned his university degree in Science Technology in Society, but says he considers his actual major to simply be “basketball.”

“My dream has always been to either run a basketball team or start a company,” Lacob says. “And I feel like I’m doing both at the same time.”

Although he now finds himself on the business side of sports, he says he still plays basketball often with two leagues: one in San Francisco and another farther south on the peninsula. About twice a month Lacob goes to San Quentin State Prison, where he and a group of friends are authorized to play basketball against inmates. He also sometimes plays with the Golden State Warriors’ General Manager Bob Myers and other staff members at the team’s practice court in Oakland.

While part of what appeals to Lacob in working with D-League players is helping them to achieve their athletic goals, his position with the team is also geared to help him develop as a general manager, he says. He is also interested in managing the D-League for its potential to become more popular among fans.

The D-League was established in 2001 to develop talent across all disciplines, including athletic trainers, coaches and front office executives, according to NBA.com.

The league is becoming an increasingly respected proving ground, according to Lacob. “As of earlier this summer, 25 percent of all NBA players had D-league experience,” he says. “This really shows that we have a true minor league system forming.”

There are currently 16 D-League teams, 10 of which are affiliated with an NBA team, he says. Lacob speculates that within a couple of years, all 30 NBA teams will have their own affiliates. “What we’ve tried to do is be a pioneer of this model,” he says.

Lacob notes that his Silicon Valley mentality is a big asset to him in his role as general manager, adding that he has the same innovative, competitive and enthusiastic approach to building something new as the young people working in the tech industry.

There was some initial doubt about moving the Golden State Warriors’ D-League team to Santa Cruz, but Lacob is confident in the decision.  “I like building things,” Lacob says, “and when people tell you something can’t be done, there’s a grain in my body that wants to prove them wrong. I like defying [the] odds.”

He’s also got the support of some of the top basketball executives in the business.

On the morning of Tuesday, June 12, Lacob and NBA hall-of-famer Jerry “Mr. Clutch” West, who is 74, drove from Oakland to Santa Cruz for a promotional meet-and-greet lunch with City of Santa Cruz officials, NBA executives and local business owners at the Crow’s Nest restaurant.

The Warriors’ Vice President of New Franchise Development, Jim Weyermann, announced a sponsorship from Kaiser Permanente, which names the soon-to-be-built facility for the Santa Cruz Warriors the “Kaiser Permanente Arena.”

Lacob also took the opportunity to unveil the new Santa Cruz Warriors’ logo, which he designed. Reminiscent of the Golden State Warriors’ bridge design, the logo has a yellow circle with a blue trident in its middle and reads, “SANTA CRUZ WARRIORS” around the circle’s bottom.

“We came up with this three pronged approach,” he says. “The trident is a symbol of toughness—a warrior. It’s also a nautical symbol. And third, it looks like a W. We were happy to put those three elements together and create something that showed a unique Santa Cruz approach but also had a Warriors feel to it.”

During the June 12 meet-and-greet, the audience on the second floor of the Crow’s Nest gave Jerry West, who is on the Warriors’ executive board, their full attention.

“I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the professionalism of these young players,” West told the crowd. “They’re here to prove a point. You’re going to be surprised when you see how competitive these kids are.”

For his part, Lacob says he is also excited to have the opportunity to work in Santa Cruz.

“For the first time I can tell people I’ve got to go to Santa Cruz this weekend,” he laughs. “They’re forcing me to go, where I hang out by the beach and watch basketball. Life won’t be too bad.”

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