Adding Nyanin as GM feels like a win for WNBA Golden State franchise

Adding Nyanin as GM feels like a win for WNBA Golden State franchise originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO – There is no nickname. There is no head coach. But Monday morning the veil was lifted ever so slightly on the calculated, deliberate reveal of Golden State’s WNBA expansion team.

The unveiling of the franchise’s first general manager, Ohemaa Nyanin, puts another pillar in place. The team has yet to play a game, much less win one, but this looks like a victory for the franchise-building phase.

“I kind of knew when I first met her, this woman is the right person,” Golden State CEO Joe Lacob said. “I just knew it. I felt it. But we went through the whole process, and she continued to perform so well.”

Nyanin, 37, has spent the last five years with the WNBA New York Liberty, rising from director of basketball operations in 2019 to assistant GM in 2022. The Liberty finished 16-20 in her first season as assistant GM but climbed to a franchise-record 32-8 last season.

A variety of factors contributed to the turnaround, but Nyanin’s impact was impossible to miss. A starting center at American University – as a senior, she was sixth in minutes played but first in rebounding – she has a history of connecting not only with athletes but people in general.

“It was a really hard decision with the fact that I’m leaving good people,” Nyanin said of her decision come to Golden State. “And people mean a lot to me. Throughout the interview process, I got to meet the leadership of this organization and they’re really good people. With where I’m at in my career, I want to continue to grow professionally but I also want to enjoy what I do. I also want to have a smile on my face when I come in to work.

“They took a leap of faith with me. And I, in turn, am taking a leap of faith in them. To learn from each other but also to grow an elite team.”

Lacob and Nyanin both conceded that the hiring process was quite the journey, but that’s something with which she is familiar. At 23, while a graduate student at American University, Nyanin was named director of women’s basketball operations at American University. At 25, she was a youth director of a Methodist church. Three years later, she was assistant director of USA Basketball.

Nyanin also has spent the last eight years as FIBA Americas World Cup Qualifier technical delegate and manager. Which consists of numerous roles, including the event lead of the 2024 Women’s Pre-Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Brazil, co-technical commissioner of the 2022 Women’s World Cup in Brazil, and the Official FIBA Representative at FIBA Basketball World Cup Qualifier Games around the world.

These experiences came into play while Nyanin was being recruited by executives from the Golden State WNBA team president Jess Smith as well as Lacob, who made the final decision.

"You look for IQ and intelligence, someone with basketball knowledge and experience and sort of a gut-level understanding of the game,” he said. “And I think all of that along with sort of a cultural fit, someone that would really be able to fit within our culture, were all important aspects of this hiring process. And she passed with flying colors.

"This is a tremendous hire, couldn't be more excited.”

Nyanin, who was born in Ghana but grew up in the United States, has a checklist of qualities she appreciates and a list of questions for those she will encounter.

“Everybody is a product of their experiences,” she said. “To understand who a person is first, before we look at their skills, is very, very important to me. Their purpose. Why do you want to be here? Why do you want to work together? Why do you want to collaborate? Are you collaborative?

"It is just really important for people to have the balance. To not have this job, or whatever job they have, to consume them so much that it becomes their identity.”

Nyanin will oversee all basketball operations, from roster construction to team building to player development. She will report to Lacob.

Her first order of business, once she completes the move from New York to the Bay Area, is to lead the search for a head coach.

“The timeline is fluid. We want the best coach possible. With some flexibility from our team, I think we’ll wait for the hire. But we want the best person.”

Golden State’s WNBA team nickname and logo remain undercover, likely to be revealed later this month. That might provide another boost for ticket deposits, which last week surpassed 7,000.

The nickname and logo, however, are trimming and amenities. Marketing essentials. Laying a solid foundation is the priority, and bringing in Nyanin feels like a logical approach to that goal.

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