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.”
In his endless quest to prevent various calamities from befalling the N.B.A.’s most glamorous collection of stars, Housen left the locker room on Monday to find that Cousins was storming down the hallway in search of Durant, who was making his way off the court after his ejection and toward the locker room. Security officers, aware that trouble was brewing, quickly diverted Durant to a small corridor as several others slowed Cousins’s progress.
“Shut the door! Shut the door!” the officers shouted at one another up and down the hallway.
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.”
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.
Housen spent the second half in the locker room, where he supervised the caterers who were assembling dinner. He called the hotel in New Orleans with the team’s estimated arrival. He double-checked “out of my own fear and paranoia,” he said, that the team’s breakfast spread would be available until 1 p.m. And he called ahead to the driver of another equipment truck that was set to meet them at the airport in New Orleans.
At 10:56 p.m., about an hour after the Warriors finished off their victory against the Heat, their private plane was rumbling down the runway in Miami. Housen took a seat and sent his daily group text, complete with bus and airplane emojis, that detailed the team’s schedule for the next day. He glanced at his watch and checked his stats: He had walked 13.2 miles and taken 25,347 steps. He was bummed that he had not managed to squeeze in a workout.
When the plane landed in New Orleans, Housen was the first one off. He met an equipment truck that had pulled up to the belly of the plane and began pulling luggage off a conveyor belt.
“Can’t this thing go faster?” he said. “Speed it up!”
After a pair of buses delivered the players and staff to their downtown hotel (12:37 a.m.), Housen headed to the arena, where he spent the next three hours unloading equipment in the visiting locker room. He considered spending what remained of the night on a training table.
“You can make a little bed with some towels,” he said.
But Housen wanted to be back at the hotel so he could check in with the chef before any of the players arrived for breakfast. He was still nervous about breakfast.
“A lot of my job happens,” he said, “when people aren’t there.”
On Monday afternoon, before the game against the Pelicans, Housen went grocery shopping, which is something he does each day that the Warriors are on the road.
He filled his cart: sunflower seeds, deodorant, sliced bread, bananas, granola bars, four six-packs of beer, nine bottles of wine. The bill came to $521.45. Housen, who does not consider himself a sommelier, leans on Stephen Curry and Shaun Livingston for wine expertise. Their rule of thumb: pinot noirs and Cabernet Sauvignons that are a 2012 vintage or older.
“They’re not drinking Keystone,” Housen said.
Housen knows his players’ habits and daily rhythms. He knows, for example, that Thompson will wear the same socks until he puts holes in them, so Housen will preemptively swap them out. He knows that Nick Young wants the insoles removed from his sneakers. He knows that JaVale McGee has the largest feet on the team (size 19). He knows that Curry has a shoe calendar — yes, a shoe calendar, to tell him what sneakers to wear for which game — and Housen knows that because Under Armour sends it straight to him.
He knows that some of the players have discriminating taste when it comes to bottled water, so he stocks the refrigerator in the visiting locker room with three or four brands. He knows that if Ron Adams, the longtime assistant, indulges in an occasional beer on the plane, he likes Peroni. But Housen also knows that Coach Steve Kerr prefers Modelo Especial.
He knows which players want hotel rooms away from the elevators. He knows that McGee is a vegetarian and that Curry avoids gluten. He knows that Zaza Pachulia likes to change into a fresh jersey at halftime. And he knows that Pachulia does not like to leave the arena with damp hair.
“He’s the only guy I’ve ever had who uses a blow dryer,” Housen said.
So Housen tucks one into Pachulia’s locker before every game — and keeps a spare on hand in case the first one breaks.
“I hope that doesn’t make me high maintenance,” Pachulia, the team’s starting center, said, “but I do like to dry my hair.”
Housen has never said no to anyone, he said. And if he cannot fulfill a request, he knows that he at least tried. He recalled how David Lee, the team’s former power forward, once asked for a helicopter to get home from Oracle Arena after the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge unexpectedly closed. Alas, Housen could not find one on short notice. But it was a rare miss, and one that still seems to bother him.
“I wish I could get them a bucket or a rebound or draw up a play,” Housen said. “But I can’t do any of that, so I try to work as hard as I can for them from here.”
It is not a stretch, Kerr said, to suggest that Housen affects team performance. He eliminates stress, and the players benefit from more rest because everything is on time.
“It seems like he spends his entire life setting stuff up for everyone else,” Kerr said.
When Pachulia’s two young sons joined the team as ball boys on a recent road trip, he was glad they were around — in part so they could offer Housen some help.
“At least E could take a break and not have to get up during timeouts so much,” Pachulia said.
Against the Pelicans, the Warriors won again, albeit it with some drama. Cousins and Durant had their confrontation, and Curry left the game with a sprained ankle.
But Housen was already planning for another late-night flight, this one to Charlotte for a game against the Hornets on Wednesday. More schedules to keep. More problems to solve. And another day for the busiest man in the N.B.A.