FROM MONDAY’S PRESS CONFERENCE WITH GM LARRY RILEY AND COACH KEITH SMART
Larry Riley calls Keith Smart a “tactician” and says he’s very well prepared. He talks about how much time he has spent working practices. Riley says “he’s extremely ready to take this job.”
Riley says the Warriors owe Don Nelson a debt of gratitude and he says that he, personally, owes Nelson a debt of gratitude.
Keith Smart has always been well spoken. He is articulate and at least, initially, will be good for the media. Smart gives credit to Nelson, says that Nelson gave him so much freedom, “more freedom than any assistant coach in the NBA.”
Smart: “This thing went pretty quick, managed to get a staff together.”
New coaches are Jerry Sichting, Steven Silas, Calbert Cheaney and Robert Werrdan.
Smart talked about how all the work he did before was under the vision of head coach Don Nelson. But he says that now, “you’ll get a chance to understand who I am as a coach. You’ll get a chance to understand my vision of what I want to do with our team and help it grow in that fashion.”
Questions from the media: How will you put your stamp on this team, make it different from Nelson?
Smart: We have a different basketball team. It’s no secret that coach Nelson wanted me to be a defensive coordinator so there was something there. I played the game, trying to play it from that standpoint. We still going to run, going to play fast, but we want to have another element, and that’s to be a physical, big basketball team as well. So we still have 2’s, where we can get up and down the floor and play, the big guys that we have have played on fast-paced teams. But they also bring another element to the team as far as their rebounding and toughness, and so the stamp that I want to try and be fast but also be a physical team from a defensive standpoint. And that’s the direction we’re going to try and go here and you’re going to see if we can make that happen.
Q: From Matt Steinmetz about the timing of the move, directed at Larry Riley.
Riley: I’m surprised you would ask that question (laughs). No, obviously it would have been better to have done this earlier in the summer, to have a little bit more time for preparation.
It is something that has been discussed for some time now. I informed ownership several weeks ago of the desire to actually make a change and I had also talked to Nellie in that same regard. We had some discussions in regard to that. When you get into the situation that we’re in, then sometimes you don’t get to move things on as quickly as you possibly could have. But in this case, I think we’ve moved as quickly as we possibly could have.
I became very relaxed, Matt, at the fact that I knew where Keith (Smart) was going, because in discussions with Nellie, even back last summer, Keith was going to be preparing to run our training camp and that isn’t anything different that’s happened in the past couple years anyway, but he’s even more prepared this year knowing that Nellie really wanted to turn things over to him and run our camp. So, in our discussions, we knew that his preparation was going on getting ready to run the camp.
Also, Keith and I had to get our heads together at a late date on how to get a staff together; that had to take place and as Keith and I have talked about, we both had done the same thing without him knowing it, I had a list of people who I would have liked to have seen come in as assistant coaches. When he got the job, he was already prepared with a list of people that he would like to have in and I had to have some dialogue with several guys who aren’t here over the summer, because it was obvious we had some vacancies to fill. So there was a lot of thinking that went into that process. Then when things began to pop, Keith and I worked closely with that and it’s one of those situations where we feel we’ve been very fortunate to pull a staff together at this late date and come up with some quality people.
Question from Matt Steinmetz: When you say that a few weeks ago you went to ownership, I guess I got to ask you, can you be more clear there? And then how do you go from there, I would assume it’s more complicated than … ?
Riley: It is. It’s more complicated than that. Obviously, there will be the question that people throw out there as to who really did what. And I think I would simply say to you that I came together with ownership and we had some discussion and I tried to inform ownership of what I was doing and what my thinking was as well as getting feedback from them and it was a cooperative effort. As well as the fact that in talking with Don Nelson, we have a situation where it finally became that last week there was some agreement on where we all wanted to go, and it was possible to get it done. Took awhile to get there, but good.
(Couldn’t hear the follow-up question)
Riley: That’s fair. Now I would say this to you, my role with Mr. Lacob is to be informative and I’ve informed him of several things that have taken place within the organization and will continue to do so until the day that he officially becomes the owner of this team.
Mr. Cohan has been very good to work with. He’s been one that I’ve been able to call from time to time and have discussions. One of the things that happened when he actually began this process of selling the team where it was identified there would be a new owner, who it was, Mr. Lacob and Mr. Guber and so on, it was a situation where I was charged with keeping both parties informed, in other words, current ownership as well as those people who are coming in and the spokesman for the new group is obviously Mr. Lacob, so I’ve been going through that situation for some time.
I think I’ll elaborate a little more. You know that this team is not built as a Don Nelson team. I identified last February that there needed to be a change in this organization so we could go forward. Now that decision was made previous to a change in direction, so to speak, in regards to ownership. Well, we evaluated things quite closely, and frankly, those changes were already in place before there was an ownership change. If you look at the moves that were made — and I should clarify there hasn’t been an ownership change yet so don’t go off in that direction, but we know that that’s coming — those kinds of things were in place before things started rolling as far as ownership change. Now, yeah, there have been some signings since that day. But you obviously know that the trade that brought David Lee here was done through Mr. Cohan and there was never any discussion with anybody else. The signing of Dorrell Wright is that same way. Now, we’ve had a couple of signings since then, of course Jeremy Lin and Louis Amundson and that kind of thing, we did some trades previous to that. So this direction that we were taking was actually moving away from Don Nelson, and a lot of you reported that. That’s pretty much where we are.
Now, I think it’s important also to note that we are going to go into training camp with what we have and we’re extremely excited about having changed this basketball team. And we’re excited that we have a new coach with a fresh outlook on things and all kinds of enthusiasm and that’s where our focus is.
Question from Channel 2: In line with that, and with the timing and all, Keith, how much input did you have in this personnel, and with all of these changes, do they fit your style?
Smart: I didn’t have any decision in personnel. That’s why Larry is in the place where he’s at, so my focus was more on me preparing myself for training camp and as the team started to come together with different pieces, looking at how that fit with where the team is at this particular time. So I didn’t look at say where, ‘hey I need this guy or that guy,’ because I wasn’t in position to make those kinds of decisions. My job was to whatever piece was coming, how do I prepare the practice, getting ready for the season, getting ready for training camp, that way. That was my focus.
(Couldn’t hear the follow-up question)
Smart: Without a question, they fit. Because obviously we didn’t rebound the ball well. We have guys who, that’s part of their DNA, they’re rebounders. We have guys who, part of their DNA, are physical players. That’s a part of what they are, so there won’t be that much of suggestion to those guys, let’s play it physical, let’s rebound the basketball, that’s already part of that. So it fits what we want to do.
I’ve had a chance to work with a tremendous offensive mind for four years, so having that and along with having the mindset of a certain amount of players we have on our team now from a defensive background, it has opened my eyes to a world of being able to coach in the NBA now.
Riley: If I could add something to that, it’s almost like I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth now, so let’s clarify things. We mentioned changes because change was necessary and bringing in personnel was necessary. We know that Nellie was going to be here one more year at the maximum. And so change was necessary.
Now as a general manager, you work with a head coach in the acquisition of players. We will not be going forward without Keith Smart in consultation, in regard to what kinds of players we want on this team and identifying exactly who there are. So, we’re going to work hand-in-glove in regards to that kind of thing.
That starts basically last week, a few days ago, is when it started, it officially begins today. But you’re going to see Keith and I huddled up from time to time, discussing various things and sometimes you won’t see us huddled up, you’ll see us somewhere else. But we are here to work together and to put this franchise on the right path towards success.
Question from the Oakland Post: Speaking upon change, have you thought about, I know it hasn’t been a lot of time, what’s going to differentiate your coaching style from Don Nelson’s, even with the same coaching staff? And have you made contact with any of the players, Steph or Monta, to talk about this exchange?
Smart: The one good thing is I didn’t have to make contact with them. They contacted me. And then I started communicating with them.
And so the style is going to change, I said, because our team is changed. What I thought was needed with our basketball team that we have that we hadn’t had last year, with some guys that can play on the other side of the floor and play with a lot of passion. So, the style will be a different shift, will be a different change from how we have played the last couple years, because our team has changed, because we do have much bigger players in different spots now.
We’re going to play more of a traditional style that you see throughout the NBA, and I think the players that we have now, we can do that. But we still also have two very, very talented guards in the backcourt that can play at a very, very rapid pace. So we can’t totally take away from what their creativity is, but we have bigger players that can also play at a faster pace than what they’ve been accustomed to.
We probably just won’t shoot as many 3’s as we’ve shot in the past, but we’ll probably have more rebounds and offensive putbacks, things like that.
Question from Marc Spears, Yahoo! Sports: As a defensive coordinator, now obviously this team struggled defensively, what can you do differently now as a head coach that you couldn’t, even in that role, you couldn’t do while Nellie was head coach?
Smart: Well, in that role that I was put in, we didn’t have the personnel at the time. So now we do have that. David Lee is a rebounder. And your defense starts, if you can’t rebound, you aren’t going to win. That’s the honest thing. So it starts with how we can rebound the basketball. David Lee is, of course, is a proven pro in the NBA as a rebounder. We’ll be getting a healthy Andris Biedrins back, another guy who is a proven NBA rebounder. And we have size and some guys that can get out there to rebound the basketball.
You can put the plan out there all you want, but until you have the guys in position to do those things, you’re just going to be going around in circles. So now, rather than looking at how different I’ll be, our team is different, I’m a different coach, and we’re going to move forward from there.
Question: Did you have any parting words, or advice from Nellie? Do you think he helped you in the place you’re in now?
Smart: Well, from Day 1, when he came in he said, “I want to help you get yourself in position to be a head coach.” And, leaving, in words, he kind of said to me, “Hey, I’ve come in and done what I need to do. Got this team to a playoff, wish we could have done it more, got the record. But more important, I’ve gotten you in a position where I thought you should be the head coach of the Golden State Warriors.”