(Eds: Corrects last season’s record. With AP Photos.)By ANTONIO GONZALEZAP Sports Writer
Bob Myers slides into a booth at a swanky restaurant on the second floor of the downtown Oakland Marriott, skims over the menu and smiles about his coming order.
”I’m going to surprise you,” he says. ”It’s not on the menu.”
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The new Golden State Warriors general manager asks the waiter for a most unusual dish at this venue: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with boysenberry spread on toasted wheat bread, plus a side of potato chips. Told the kitchen might not have everything, Myers compromises on tortilla chips and creamy – instead of crunchy – peanut butter.
This is Myers at his core.
At 37 years old, little about Myers fits the mold of most NBA general managers. On this day, he has shed the suit and tie for black corduroy pants, a white-and-blue patterned shirt with the top three buttons open under a black sweater. He juggles table conversation between text messages and calls, plugging in his phone’s ear piece while on the run.
A member of the 1995 NCAA champion UCLA basketball team, Myers has gone from sports agent to assistant general manager to GM of his hometown franchise in only a year. He spends so much time on his job that, he says, ”I purposely don’t try to keep track of how many hours we work. It’s a lot.”
Myers moves so fast that meals are often the only reminder of home.
Myers’ wife, Kristen, a high school friend of his younger sister, Kelly, packs him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch almost every day.
”He has to have at least one a day. Sometimes two. It’s insane,” Kristen said.
Myers shares the meal with their 2-year-old daughter, Kayla. The couple is expecting a second daughter in July. The PB&J tradition started while he was working for renowned sports agent and mentor Arn Tellem. The two logged long hours to build the Wasserman Media Group’s client list into a basketball empire, and meals often had to be squeezed in at the office.
”I think peanut butter was our consensus first draft choice,” Tellem joked. ”Peanut butter was our Anthony Davis go-to food if we were on a deserted island.”
Myers learned long ago that he’d have to outwork and outsmart others to remain in basketball.
The former star at Monte Vista High School in San Francisco’s East Bay walked on at UCLA under coach Jim Harrick before earning a scholarship. Myers, a 6-foot-7 forward, never played meaningful minutes until Feb. 1, 1996.
”Be ready this game,” he recalled Harrick telling him before UCLA hosted Oregon that night his junior year.
”I’m like, `OK, I’m pretty much ready every game. I’ve been ready for a couple years, apparently you’re not ready for me,”’ Myers said, chuckling. ”I remember he looked down the bench, I don’t know how much time was left in the first half, and he said, `Myers.’ I’m like, `You need a towel?’ I said, `What did I do? I didn’t clap hard enough?’ I think I’m watching the game. Evidently, I think he wanted me to go in the game.”
Myers went from the 12th man Pauley Pavilion crowds cheered to see play during blowouts to a forward who showed so much heart and hustle that his minutes increased. Two days later, he had a career-high 20 points, five rebounds and two steals to spark UCLA past Oregon State 69-60.
That was the height of his career as a player.
So at the end of his senior year, Myers asked Harrick how he could stay involved in sports. Harrick introduced Myers to Tellem, even entering the conversation under false pretenses.
”I always kid him that when I first got the call from Jim Harrick that I’ve got someone terrific for you, I thought he was setting me up with the next Reggie Miller as a client,” Tellem said. ”And it was Bob.”
The meeting forged a fruitful friendship and booming business.
In 1997, Tellem hired Myers as an intern while the young UCLA business and economics graduate worked on his next degree at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. Together, the two built the agency’s basketball division into one of the world’s strongest.
Through Tellem, Myers met Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, who was close with then-minority owner Joe Lacob. Lacob later purchased the Warriors for a record $450 million in 2010 along with movie mogul Peter Guber.
When Lacob searched for an eventual successor to general manager Larry Riley, who’s now overseeing scouting, one of the first names Ainge recommended to his friend was Myers. Lacob was sold from the start.
”He’s a very mature, professional guy with a lot of experience, certainly in negotiating contracts and dealing with players,” Lacob said. ”He’s got very good people skills.”
Myers’ move up Golden State’s management ladder didn’t take long.
A year after he was hired as assistant general manager, Lacob promoted Myers to GM the last week of the regular season. At Golden State, Myers takes over basketball operations for the franchise he grew up rooting for as a kid just down the road in Danville – a team with one playoff appearance since 1994.
Myers has tried to stay motivated and grounded through all his success. He saves quotes by UCLA coach John Wooden in his phone to keep life in perspective. ”Don’t measure yourself by what you’ve accomplished, but what you should’ve accomplished with your ability,” one reads.
Myers applies that approach every day.
As an agent, his job was to find the most money and best fit for his clients. Now it’s to land the best players at the best price for the Warriors, who wrapped up a 23-43 season and are headed to the draft lottery, where Myers will represent the team.
”It’s kind of flipping things on their head, to some degree, just turning around how you view things,” Myers said. ”A lot of people believe it’s just a fantasy basketball game where you’re just making quick decisions. It’s anything but. Everything you do is thought out and processed in months and months of work. What you realize is how much work goes into the decisions you don’t make.”
Ultimately, Myers knows he’ll be judged by wins and losses and nothing more.
The Warriors are hoping to make major strides next season behind a healthy Andrew Bogut, Stephen Curry and David Lee – all coming off surgeries – and promising rookie Klay Thompson. Myers has watched enough of his predecessors offer the same hope – and fail to deliver – to make any promises.
Still, overseeing the Warriors from a courtside seat or luxury suite at the same arena where his basketball love began is special, even if it comes with added responsibilities.
”A lot less pressure watching the Warriors from the upper deck,” Myers said. ”Better seat now, more pressure. A lot more pressure. Same enjoyment. A lot more pressure.”
AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley contributed to this story.
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