Larry Riley: ‘Thought We Would Build Around Him’

A lot of people deserve a lot of credit for the Golden State Warriors winning the NBA championship.

Larry Riley is one of those people. The former Warriors general manager, now the director of scouting, Riley drafted Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and acquired Andrew Bogut, among others.

To see this team win a championship? Incredible.

“It’s just the exhilaration,” Riley said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “You can’t downplay it. It’s the most gratifying thing that I’ve been through in the sports world. It’s the first championship, and to have a piece of this team and to be a part of it, to be able to contribute – if you get into this business, it’s the ultimate goal . . . the greatest of happiness. I don’t know how to convey it. Other than maybe the birth of your children and family and things like that, this is the greatest thing that’s happened in my life.”

Riley, who has worked in the NBA for 23 years, had mixed feelings about his his 2012 demotion but was ultimately happy to remain with the organization.

“It was disappointing that I didn’t get to finish the job in the front chair,” he said. “But at the same time, if that was going to be best for the organization and that’s what new ownership (Joe Lacob) wanted to do, I was simply in a position where I either accept a new position, stay in the organization and have a chance to contribute, or I move on. And the fact is, most times when there’s new ownership, everybody gets thrown out the door anyway. And so, in some respects, I was a little bit grateful.”

Riley certainly fared well as GM and had a few pleasant surprises along the way. He knew Stephen Curry was going to be good, for example, but he didn’t expect him to become MVP.

“See, what you’re supposed to say is, ‘Yeah, I knew it all along,’” Riley said, laughing. “I did not know that. I didn’t know he was going to be this good. We had a really bad team when things started out. The first thing we wanted to do was kind of clean up the locker rom and get things straightened out. I thought a great starting point would be to get a point guard we could build around for the future, and that’s exactly what I saw in Steph. Even though some people thought he’s a 2-guard, we did see him as a point guard. I thought he was going to be the point guard we could build a team around. I thought he would be good.”

He has been – and with a young, deep, versatile roster, the Warriors could contend for championships for the next several years. Their top priority this offseason is re-signing Draymond Green and, perhaps to a lesser extent, David Lee – even though there are reports that Lee and the Warriors have amicably agreed to move on from each other.

Riley said Lee going elsewhere is “a possibility.” The second-longest tenured player for the Warriors, Lee was acquired from the Knicks in a sign and trade in 2010.

“That was the first time that the Golden State Warriors, who were somewhat of a downtrodden team, had been able to attract a free agent of significance,” Riley said. “Now, he wasn’t a tier-1 free agent at that time because that was the year LeBron James and Bosh (were free agents). So David was in that second tier. I thought it was extremely important that we were able to sign him because it showed the rest of the NBA that people would be interested in the Bay Area and we were trying to build something. So I thought that held some significance for us. Then he went on to make the All-Star team. His contribution to us has been outstanding. Whether or not he will be traded, I couldn’t address that, but you’re right to ask the question: Is he in a position where that could happen? I suppose so. We respect David. Whatever can be done, that is the right thing we’ll try to do. He’s a player you can work with. Whatever happens, he’s going to say and do the right things.”

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