ATHERTON — Kent Lacob, the general manager of the Santa Cruz Warriors, spent three years on varsity with the Menlo School boys basketball team.
After he graduated in 2011, his high school coach, Kris Weems, kept in touch.
Six years later, their paths cross again after last week’s announcement that Weems, a guard on the 1998 men’s basketball team at Stanford that reached the Final Four, joined the Santa Cruz Warriors staff as an assistant coach for the G-League affiliate of the NBA champion.
“Basketball is everything to me,” said Weems, who after three years as athletic director at Menlo School is stepping away from the Atherton campus for a second time to join the Warriors. “It got me the opportunity to go to Stanford and compete there and get an education. Also, teaching me how to coach and how to be a leader in a program the first year I was here at Menlo. That’s one of the reasons I’m sad to leave, because I feel like I’ve built a lot of goodwill with the community.”
Weems, who turns 41 in October, spent seven seasons on the bench at Menlo School before accepting a position in 2011 as assistant coach for player development under the Mark Jackson regime with the Warriors, then transitioning to a scout.
In 2014, he returned to Atherton to take over as athletic director.
One of his first hires was Keith Larsen, the current men’s basketball coach for the Knights and the person who recruited him to Stanford out of Kansas City, Kansas.
“With him being so close to that Lacob family, you probably thought that something like that would happen,” Larsen said. “That’s his life, that’s what he does. But I tell you what, he was a heck of an athletic director. For guys like me that need all the paperwork done and just kind of point us in the right direction and let us coach, you couldn’t ask for a better guy.”
News of the Aaron Miles hire as head coach of the Santa Cruz Warriors began circulating in July, around the same time Weems paid a visit to his old stomping grounds.
“I was in Kansas City this summer when he was announced as head coach and I asked my cousin, ‘Hmm, there might be a job,’ ” said Weems, whose cousin went to Kansas with Miles. “And I’m not thinking I was ever going to get in the mix, and he said, ‘Hey, you never know.’ So we left it at that.”
Eventually, Weems reached out to Lacob to congratulate him on the hire. Out of the blue, the GM inquired about his former coach’s interest in joining the staff.
“I was like, ‘Sure,’ ” Weems said. “And that’s kind of how it started.”
Skeptical at first — there was still the matter of the interview process — he informed Menlo Head of School Than Healy of the possibility.
“It wasn’t really a reality until just maybe a couple of weeks ago, a little bit before, actually,” Weems said. “I told the head of schools. We had been thinking about what the transition would look like, but until I got an offer, I was committed to working in Menlo and doing right by this program again for a fourth year.”
He added: “I think anytime you change jobs, it’s never ideal, because you’re leaving one environment that you’re fully comfortable with and working towards a certain level of success, like we’ve been doing at Menlo for the last three years. And then at the same time, you get a very unique opportunity and you don’t know if it’s going to come back again, so you’ve got to take advantage.”
Weems is finally leaving the Bay Area after more than 20 years, though it’s not like he’s going that far away.
“We haven’t figured out what we’re going to do with our house, whether we’re going to sell it or rent it, but we are moving down to Santa Cruz,” Weems said. “We’ll be about 2½ miles from the arena.”
That will allow him virtually instant access to players at random, with most in their mid-20s, some with experience overseas or in the G-League, and a few straight out of high school.
“We’re still trying to mold them,” Weems said. “They’re not necessarily finished products, but the ultimate goal is to get to the NBA, so how can I be active in their development on and off the court? But then, also, how am I developing as a coach in support of Aaron Miles I think is a really important thing. Supporting Aaron, supporting the organization and everybody improving along the way.”
“He’s got such a great demeanor,” Larsen said. “He’s not loud, outgoing, your typical skills coach that kind of shoves it down your throat and he’s flying around. Kris is one of those guys that really understand what you can do well, what you need to work on.”
Does this mean he’s ready to lace up his sneakers to guard the next generation of NBA hopefuls?
“Oh, no, no, no,” Weems said. “There will be no 1-on-1s, no playing against these players, I’m too old for that. But I will get into shooting contests with them, because I can still do that.”
Out of the Weems family, maybe no one will miss Menlo more than his 3-year-old daughter.
“My daughter loves Menlo Day Care,” said Weems, who has a second child due in a few weeks. “But 3 years old, they’re pretty resilient.”
Plus, he’s gone through this once before, never losing touch with the Menlo community after his original stint in Atherton.
“They stayed connected when I went to the Warriors the first time,” Weems said. “And I totally expect that I will still have those relationships going forward. But that is one of the things that I’ll miss, is the community aspect and all the support I got when I was coaching or as an AD.
“You can’t really go wrong when you’re coaching there, it’s just a matter of providing a good experience for the kids.”
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