OAKLAND – Rick Welts was never going to be just another basketball executive again, not after announcing his homosexuality in May in a lengthy New York Times article. But then came Tuesday and the press conference to introduce him as new Warriors president and chief operating officer and the realization that things are going to be different on a lot of fronts.
Unless there are a lot of press conferences where the subject is asked, “Do you think there will be a need for you to discuss your sexuality?”
Welts did not flinch. He handled that question – The front page of the New York Times is a pretty good way to explain it, etc. – and every other that came his way in the transition from nine years as Suns president to the first official day on the job with the Warriors.
Shy away from the possibility of indelicate questions about his personal life, including how he left Phoenix before the end of his contract to be closer to his partner in Northern California? No. Welts embraced his new, very public podium with no plans to withdraw into the relatively quiet life of an executive with no impact on the product on the floor.
“I knew that’s what I was signing up for when I kind of chose the path that I took in May,” he said. “I don’t think that time will come. And I think frankly, as I said, it was a choice. It was a choice I made. I think there’s an opportunity and a little bit of a responsibility that goes along with that as well.”
The Warriors didn’t just fill a vacancy at the top of business operations. They added a willing participant in a conversation of sports and society, and they did it in a market with a large homosexual population. Owner Joe Lacob said the May revelation of a high-ranking executive coming out was discussed, but served no motivation for the hire. Welts said coming to the Bay Area is an especially unique situation, but that it was not a part in taking the job. It’s just how things worked out.
“The platform I’ve been given is kind of national in nature,” he said. “It’s great to be here and I hope I can express it here. But that really wasn’t a factor at all.”
The interest is understandable with the rare disclosure in the sports world. Plus he is now in the Bay Area, the story is still fresh, and he’s now a business executive and therefore not in a role to discuss the direction of the roster. What should not be lost is that Welts is a great hire and very well respected after prominent positions at the league office and individual teams.
“I know it’s an obvious question to ask,” Lacob said when queried whether Welts could see his role unintentionally turn into something other than typical team president. “But the truth of the matter is I’m not really thinking about it. Neither one of us (Lacob or co-owner Peter Guber) are. He’s the best single guy we could have got to be president of this team. He’s incredibly qualified. League experience. Team experience. Incredibly respected. You can’t find anybody that has a negative thing to say about him. The truth is, we just wanted to hire the single best guy we could to be the president of the Golden State Warriors. The rest of it is what it is. People react however they react. I can’t control that.”