Golden State Warriors general manager Larry Riley was demoted by new owner Joe Lacob in April of 2012.
Two months before, Lacob was loudly booed by his own fans at a jersey retirement ceremony after Riley traded Monta Ellis to the Milwaukee Bucks for the oft-injured Andrew Bogut at the deadline.
After the season Lacob promoted Bob Myers to GM, and demoted Riley to director of scouting.
After being told of the move, Riley admitted to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Rusty Simmons he was disappointed with the switch:
“I’d be disingenuous if I said anything other than there is some real disappointment about not being the general manager anymore. I think the team is set to be pretty good. It took a lot of work to get it to this point, and I’d like to be in the position to enjoy the success.”
Three years later, the success has certainly come. While Myers won Executive of the Year in 2014, it’s Riley who has arguably had the greater impact on the team. Warriors fans who once ridiculed Riley and his decisions now cheer for a team composed of players primarily brought in by Riley.
While drafting Stephen Curry 7th-overall in 2009 was by far Riley’s most successful move as general manager, it wasn’t the only one. The shooting guard tasked to replace fan-favourite Monta Ellis? All-star Klay Thompson, who Riley drafted 11th-overall in 2011. The injury-prone center the Warriors acquired in the Ellis trade? Rebounding machine Andrew Bogut.
All three were instrumental in the Warriors’ series-clinching Game 5 win over the Houston Rockets. Curry and Thompson combined for 56 points, and Bogut led the team with 14 rebounds.
After being demoted, Riley has still played a pivotal role in building the Warriors. As director of scouting, he had a hand in the wildly successful 2012 draft that brought the team Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli, and Draymond Green.
Out of the Warriors eight key contributors this postseason — Curry, Thompson, Barnes, Green, Bogut, Ezeli, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston — Iguodala and Livingston are the only two that Riley didn’t play a major role in acquiring.
During Curry’s MVP acceptance speech he made a point to mention Riley, and thank him for everything he’s done:
“He’s the reason I’m here. He drafted me. He saw potential in me coming out of college, along with [former Warriors coach] Don Nelson, making those decisions. You’re a big reason why I’m here, taking a chance on a little scrawny kid from a mid-major school. So just wanted to say thank you for believing in me. Crazy how far we’ve come in six years. But thank you, man. I can’t thank you enough for that decision.”
Three years after fans booed one of his moves in an ugly scene, he deserves a ton of credit for getting the team to the finals.
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