Golden State Surveillance

Andy Livingston

Darren Erman

Golden State Warriors Assistant Coach Darren Erman.

The Golden State Warriors won their first NBA championship in 40 years riding high on the wave of point guard Steph Curry, rookie head coach Steve Kerr and a bevy of experienced and exciting players. This offseason the Warriors will be celebrating and retooling their roster to make a second appearance in the Finals next year, unlike last year, when a successful-but-tumultuous year ended with the firing of head coach Mark Jackson.

Jackson was known as being a boisterous presence, full of personal conviction and spearheading a strong philosophy. He had already sent down assistant coach Brian Scalabrine to the Warriors D League affiliate when he fired assistant coach Darren Erman near the end of the 2014 campaign. At first it seemed like another rash move in the toxic coaching office that Jackson was in charge of, but soon after it was determined that Erman had been doing something far more insidious.

It was later reported that Darren Erman was secretly recording conversations of his fellow coaches and the players on the team.According to the reports, Erman’s—who was eventually let go for “violation of company policy”—demeanor changed in March, when people believe the taping began, and was caught three weeks later. Erman taped all types of formal and informal conversations between himself and fellow coaches and meetings with players all without their knowledge. He was kept on staff until his firing on April 5.

So here’s where it gets confusing: Nobody knows why he was recording. Suspicions arose that he was asked to tape the conversations by team executives, but it was never confirmed whether Erman acted under orders or as a lone wolf. There were equally unconfirmed reports that majority team owner Joe Lacob and coach Mark Jackson did not get along and any ammunition gathered by the owner as reason to dump Jackson would have been used. Soon after the season, Jackson was fired despite having a winning record, helping the Warriors defense take shape and leading the ‘Dubs from the bottom of the Western conference to a first round win against the Denver Nuggets in 2013.

So if Erman wasn’t taping conversations for Lacob who was he taping for?

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A source close to the situation couldn’t provide any further clarification, but did state that Erman “had a lot of communication with members of the front office.” If Erman was working as an agent of the front office to give ownership a better picture of what the coaching office was like, why did they have him tape conversations? Teams are subject to an exit interview at the end of their season, so the information could have been gathered either way. Also, you have to imagine there is some manner of rapport between the owner of a team and the players that he signs the checks for. So it seems ownership could have gotten any kind of information they wanted and even if they didn’t, they had the authority to relieve Jackson regardless.

The fear that legislation like The Patriot Act normalized is that surveillance of those we’re closest to can be excused. Erman, under implicit or explicit directions, took it upon himself to violate the privacy of his friends and coworkers. And although he lost his job, Erman wasn’t blackballed from the sport and quickly recovered as the Head of Scouting for the Boston Celtics, the team where Warriors owner Joe Lacob formerly had a minority ownership share. This summer he was hired by the New Orleans Pelicans to be their top assistant coach. Mark Jackson, on the other hand, was ignored on a number of opening coaching vacancies and had the dubious honor of playcalling the Warriors-Cavaliers games for television.

If we are to believe all of the speculation the story that unfolds, and Erman did indeed compile evidence against his boss at the behest of the team owner, and even when he is discovered for his violation, merely has to move across country for another job, this sets a very scary precedent. It would seem the risk for secretly taping your coworkers in the NBA is low enough to give it a shot. In fact, if you secretly run surveillance for the right person, it could further advance your career.

Even the organization that fired Darren Erman moved up in the world, shedding Mark Jackson for Steve Kerr and a place in the NBA Finals. The argument could be made that surveillance worked for the Golden State Warriors. So who will be the next team to fill Big Brother’s shoes?

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