NEW ORLEANS — Late in the fourth quarter of the Golden State Warriors’ game against the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday night, Eric Housen sensed that something was amiss as he sorted through gear in the visiting locker room at the Smoothie King Center.
The Warriors’ Kevin Durant and the Pelicans’ DeMarcus Cousins had just been ejected for saying some tough things to each other, and Housen heard a commotion coming from the hallway outside the locker room. He went to investigate.
As the Warriors’ director of team operations, Housen juggles no fewer than a gazillion jobs. He packs the players’ uniforms. He transports their bags. He books their hotel rooms. He washes their practice gear. He buys their snacks. He makes sure that the buses that deliver the team from the airport to the hotel to the arena arrive on time. He arranges the private planes for the team’s massive traveling party, which includes family members and broadcasters.
He plans the players’ meals and manages their schedules and troubleshoots their problems and tries hard to limit himself to two energy drinks a day.
“Caffeine is probably my biggest thing,” he said. “The training staff is always trying to find me healthy alternatives.”
Credit Sam Hodgson for The New York Times
Housen, meanwhile, ran ahead of Cousins and stood in his path. Cousins, who is 6 feet 11 and 270 pounds but somehow seems even more enormous when angry, was eventually persuaded by security to return to his own locker room, and Housen (5-10, 185) resumed the far more pedestrian chore of packing equipment.
He reflected on his act of valor/lunacy.
“I figure if they see little old me out there, maybe they won’t do something,” he said.
Housen, 44, whom everyone calls E, is a behind-the-scenes force for the Warriors, who have employed him — with the exception of one season, when he followed Chris Mullin to the Indiana Pacers — since 1985, when he started as a ball boy. He was in seventh grade.
“Most important guy in the organization,” the assistant coach Bruce Fraser said.
Housen said he had not missed a game since becoming a full-time staffer in 1999. For three of those seasons, back when his title was equipment manager, he lived in the team’s practice facility and slept on a cot. He has taken three days off since the start of last season. He describes his wife, Codi, who is expecting their first child, as an understanding spouse. (He has a home now.) He still cannot grasp the twin concepts of weekends and vacations.
“Oh, I don’t pay attention to that stuff,” he said.
During his playing days with the Warriors, Mullin would recruit Housen to help him organize off-season workouts and pickup games. Housen would show up at some high school in the middle of July with nets, mops, towels and, after investigating their sizes, sneakers for Mullin’s friends. He could not help but treat it like a playoff game.
“He’s like any great artist, athlete, dancer — he’s got his own rhythm, his own way of doing things, and probably no one else would be able to do it that way,” Mullin, now the coach at St. John’s, said in a telephone interview. “And I know the Warriors have billionaire players and a billionaire owner, but without him the place would fall down. I know it sounds crazy, but that’s the God’s honest truth. And it’s been that way for 25 years.”
Where Is That Suitcase?
The day before the Warriors played the Pelicans, they were in Miami to face the Heat in the first of back-to-back games — and Housen was in hyperkinetic form two hours ahead of the tipoff.
Not long after the last of three team buses arrived at the arena, he learned that one player was running late. It was Klay Thompson, who was about to pull up to the loading dock in the back of a taxi. Housen tossed his laptop onto a pile of bags, sprinted outside to meet him and paid the fare. A few minutes later, Thompson emerged from the locker room.
“Where’s the weight room, E?” he asked Housen.
Housen returned to the loading dock to double-check that the team’s luggage — all 127 pieces — was on a truck and ready to go to the airport for the team’s flight to New Orleans later that night. Armed with a flashlight, he inspected each bag with the help of the driver. Only one appeared to be missing: a suitcase that belonged to David West.
“He always takes a late bus, so I’m surprised it’s not back here toward the end of the truck,” Housen said as he rummaged around in the dark. “Here it is!”
Once the game began, Housen sat on the floor in front of the Warriors’ bench. He collected warm-up jerseys and towels. After one possession, a ball boy for the Heat mopped up a wet spot — except that it still looked wet to Housen. So he scampered onto the court and used a towel to wipe it up by hand.
“You just try to anticipate whatever the guys need,” he said.