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Rick Welts, the newly-named president and chief operating officer of the Golden State Warriors, answers questions from the media during a press conference at team headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011 in Oakland, Calif. (D. Ross Cameron/Staff)

Rick Welts was introduced Tuesday as the Warriors' team president, and he seemed downright surprised that he wound up with a new job so soon.

"I am the luckiest guy on the face of the earth," said Welts, borrowing a line from late New York Yankees slugger Lou Gehrig to express his happiness. "Certainly, when I made the decision to leave the (Phoenix) Suns, I had no idea I would be sitting here a couple weeks later talking about a new job."

Welts is essentially filling the same position with the Warriors that he had with the Suns. He will be the president and chief operating officer with Golden State. In Phoenix, he was president and CEO.

The 58-year-old Welts left the Suns earlier this month, telling the Arizona Republic that he had planned to move to be close to his partner in Sacramento. Welts told the New York Times in May that he is gay, making him the highest-ranking sports executive to publicly acknowledge his homosexuality.

The Seattle native comes to the Warriors as the final key piece to their managerial makeover. The replacement for former president Robert Rowell, he will oversee the business side of the Warriors.

Welts, who counts NBA legend Bill Russell and commissioner David Stern among his good friends, started his NBA career as a ball boy for the Seattle SuperSonics in 1969.


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He eventually moved to the NBA office in New York, where he held a variety of jobs and is credited with creating the NBA All-Star Weekend and helping launch the WNBA.

"He's a superstar," Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob said. "Seriously. One of the very best."

The hiring came about through an interesting set of circumstances. After the Warriors and Rowell mutually decided to part ways in June, Lacob said he identified a few available candidates and was into the process of interviewing them.

Then he got a call from Suns managing partner Robert Sarver to tell him that Welts was resigning and moving to Northern California. Sarver suggested that the Warriors make a run at Welts.

"We immediately got in touch with Rick," Lacob said. "We were looking for the best candidates in all of sports. And we kept getting the same two or three names."

Welts, meanwhile, was expecting to take some time off after leaving the Suns on Sept. 9. His plan was to move to Northern California so he could be closer to his partner.

Then Lacob called, and on Sept. 19, the three men -- Welts, Lacob and Warriors co-owner Peter Guber -- got together. One week later, the Warriors announced they had a new president.

"We are very, very lucky that Welts came available," Lacob said. "A good president could take a year to find. Finding a great leader is extremely hard, because the great ones are usually employed. So we were very fortunate."

Welts said the vision of Lacob and Guber endeared him to the Warriors. He said his experience in the NBA has underscored the importance of passionate and competent owners. He called the opportunity in Oakland intriguing.

"Everyone in the NBA looks at this franchise as the sleeping giant," Welts said of the Warriors. "The buzz outside of the Bay Area is that there's something happening here that is going to be very special. I couldn't be more excited about being the person these guys have entrusted to bring their vision to life."