Smart had little time to deliver them a winner.
He declared from the moment he began that he would put his own stamp on the bench no matter how long his tenure lasted. He walked around the locker room before training camp asking for a handshake from each player, signaling a pact that they would allow Smart to coach them and be involved in their lives.
In the end, all those efforts weren’t enough.
Smart was still left with the same pitfall as so many of his predecessors: working with a flawed roster that, even at its best, was no playoff contender in the deep Western Conference. Smart juggled the undersized guard combo of Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry with mixed results, and the lack of a true inside presence again left the Warriors exposed.
“At some level, and certainly I know some people will say this that he deserved another year, that he didn’t have a full roster, and there’s some truth to that,” Lacob said. “But we felt that we could be better. I think to some extent ownership wanted more so to have their guy in.”
Smart often took a hardline approach with Curry, even benching the second-year starting point guard late in a few games. Their relationship was never perfect, but Smart was still well liked by players _ including Curry _ and front-office members until the end.
The 46-year-old Smart kept the run-and-fun offense Nelson once perfected, leading to some dazzling outputs and upsets, including a three-game winning streak in April over the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas and Portland. But the defensive effort was never there, and a six-game losing streak in late March that knocked the Warriors out of postseason contention spelled the end of Smart’s tenure.
“It’s difficult because of the personality of a guy like Keith Smart, the quality of the individual that he was and the fact that he’s totally professional,” Riley said. “In that regard, there’s some difficulty associated with it. The other side of it is we’re making a decision to move forward.”
AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley contributed to this story.