Steve Kerr and the Warriors Are Paying ‘the Price of Success'

OAKLAND -- It's becoming a summer ritual, competitors swooping and raiding the Warriors, hoping to break off pieces of their prosperity. This time, however, it's cutting fairly deep.

There are, as expected, departing players. Centers JaVale McGee and Zaza Pachulia are out, with key reserve David West probably to follow. Those veterans earned two rings, and each knew this could be his last season in the Bay Area.

The team's infrastructure, however, is being hit considerably harder.

Chelsea Lane, who presided over physical performance and sports medicine, is leaving, poached by the Atlanta Hawks. Joining her in Georgia is Michael Irr, who served as strength and conditioning chief. That's one-third of the Warriors' training staff.

Longtime scout and consultant Larry Riley, whose influence had waned in recent years, also is heading to Atlanta, reportedly as a special adviser.

It's not a coincidence that Travis Schlenk, who spent 12 seasons in the Warriors' front office, is entering his second season as general manager of the Hawks.

Gone, too, is Sammy Gelfand, the analytics guru who supplied valuable information to the coaching staff. After six seasons with the Warriors, he's bound for the Detroit Pistons, where new coach Dwane Casey is assembling his staff.

"Yeah, it's a lot of change," Warriors coach Steve Kerr conceded to NBC Sports Bay Area. "But that's the price of success. Sometimes teams come after your people."

That's what happened last May, when the Hawks plucked Schlenk from his assistant GM position. Accompanying him to Atlanta was Dan Martinez, who was senior public relations director for the Warriors but ascended to the title of senior director of basketball operations for the Hawks.

(Side note: Schlenk's drafting of Oklahoma guard Trae Young no doubt centered on deep shooting and passing ability reminiscent of Stephen Curry. So, yes, the Hawks are actively lifting from the Warriors blueprint.)

Less than two months after Schlenk left, Jerry West, executive board member and trusted adviser, also walked. His was a reluctant departure, but his contract was up, and he was feeling marginalized. He quickly landed a handsome salary with the Clippers as a special consultant.

The previous year, when the Warriors won 73 games but lost to Cleveland in The Finals, also brought significant off-the-court changes, with superstar Kevin Durant walking in as lead assistant coach Luke Walton -- who excelled as interim head coach -- was walking out to become head coach of the Lakers.

The previous top assistant coach, Alvin Gentry, left a year earlier, in 2015, after the Warriors won their first title under Kerr, to become head coach of the Pelicans.

So, where do the Warriors go from here? Head trainer Drew Yoder will stay on and assist in completing the staff that operated under Lane. A new strength and conditioning coach will have to be hired. Much of Gelfand's load -- and maybe his role as Shaun Livingston's personal practice partner -- will fall upon Pabail Sidhu, who spent last season working with Gelfand.

There is one more notable departure, this one sentimental. Team security manager Ralph Walker, who doubled as Curry's individual protection, is retiring. Though the former Oakland cop had no voice in personnel, training, scouting or analytics, his understated approach made him popular with players and staff alike.

Which is not to say the others were not popular. They were, particularly Lane and Gelfand.

After four consecutive trips to the NBA Finals and three championships, though, the Warriors find themselves rebuilding subtly on the court but considerably with ancillary staff.

While each departure presents a greater opportunity for those leaving, another factor is quality of life. Each of those leaving are bound for a place where salaries go appreciably further on the housing market. Martinez gleefully disclosed that the Oakland dwelling his family left behind is dwarfed by their Atlanta-area home, which cost about half as much.

That said, plenty of candidates are willing to work for the league's top marquee team. But if the Warriors continue to thrive, and the real estate market remains insane, how long will they stay?

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