Strength in Numbers might be the Golden State Warriors’ slogan from the road to their 2015 championship season, but it carries an additional meaning for a math whiz who made his way to be the team’s top chief of operations.
On July 1, Brandon Schneider ’97 officially started his job as Warriors President and Chief Operating Officer, just shy of his 42nd birthday. Brandon took the reins from his mentor, Hall of Fame executive Rick Welts, who announced his retirement but will stay on as an adviser.
Brandon was floored after that April call from Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber and touched by the notes, calls, and texts from well-wishers, many of them his classmates at Menlo. “It was a whirlwind. I was grateful for the support,” he says. “It was humbling and overwhelming.”
Brandon has been a Warriors and Giants fan for as long as he can remember, but he didn’t consider a career in sports until he started with the Warriors in 2001. “I didn’t realize you could have a job in sports if you weren’t 6-foot-8 or couldn’t shoot threes like Stephen Curry or Damian Lillard.”
His love of math brought him to the top of the Warriors’ business operations, a career he loves. When Brandon recalls his days at Menlo, he is effusive about pre-calculus, BC Calculus, and AP Stats with beloved former teacher Mike Thibodeaux. “He was so passionate about math but also so passionate about us and really cared for us,” Brandon says. “He understands that people learn in different ways.”
After graduating from UCLA, Brandon was waiting tables while he searched for a job as an investment banker or venture capitalist amid the dot-com crash. He could have worked with his father in the family business, but he felt he needed to forge his own path. A meeting with a friend’s dad led to an interview with then-Warriors President Robert Rowell. “He asked me if I could sell, and I said, ‘yes.’”
Brandon started as a ticket account executive shortly thereafter, and over the past 19 years, he has held 10 different job titles. For the past three years, he has worked as the Chief Revenue Officer, charged with maintaining the Warriors as one of the NBA’s most profitable franchises. He played an integral role in opening the Chase Center, the Warriors’ new $1.4 billion arena along the San Francisco waterfront that opened in 2019.
In his early years with the organization, he came up with unconventional strategies to fill Oracle Arena seats for a team mired in a decade-long playoff drought. Relentlessly energetic and competitive by nature, Brandon became one of the sales department’s top earners and, eventually, the Vice President of Ticket Sales and Services. In 2010, the team changed ownership to Lacob and Guber’s group.
Just a year later, as the NBA faced a lockout and subsequently shortened 2011-12 season and the Warriors were trying to decide who to keep in their business office, Brandon proposed a plan to offer fans tickets to the most popular draw, the Lakers game, if they bought tickets to 10 other games. After hours of trying to pitch a plan to ownership that was compelling marketing-wise while making sense business-wise, he had to return to the drawing board because, as Brandon understood, they didn’t want to devalue the brand.
So, he came up with a new proposal centered around dynamic pricing. A few teams were dabbling with this model and using portions of it. Hotels, resorts, and airlines had already been employing the strategy of trying to find the optimum price point based on demand. “We were a bad basketball team, and people were sort of thinking the schedule wasn’t going to happen,” Brandon says. “We were trying to come up with an innovative way to move the needle in what was not a good sales environment.”
The Warriors valued the use of data and analytics not just on the court but also on the business side. “Joe and Peter bought into that analytical mindset. I think that was the turning point in my relationship with the new regime.”
Since late 2011, Brandon has reported to Welts, one of the most respected executives in the NBA. “He’s a Hall of Famer because he’s in the Hall of Fame, but he’s also a Hall of Fame person,” Brandon says. “People ask me what I learned from Rick, and I say, ‘Everything.’”
Welts created an NBA 101 program for Brandon, making sure he has talked to and has contact with all of the NBA presidents as well as league executives and Commissioner Adam Silver.
“A lot of times, I like to be more direct. Rick tends to give people space to get there on their own,” Brandon says. “He always told me, ‘You hire great people and let them do their jobs.’ I know with me, he’s given me a lot of autonomy with our team to figure things out, but he’s there if we need it.”
It’s not common for an NBA team’s Chief Revenue Officer to oversee its philanthropic efforts, along with directing ticket sales, suites, corporate partnerships, and marketing. But Brandon has excelled in doing just this. When he moved into the position, Welts shared with him the importance of broadening his vision. The efforts of the foundation have continued to grow tremendously since its inception in 2012. “I’ve learned so much every day from the people I’ve worked with in the community team.”
The Warriors Community Foundation is dedicated to educational equity and youth development in San Francisco and Alameda Counties and has given over $22 million since 2012. “We all know how important it is to give back, and we can contribute significantly because of the platform, the megaphone we have,” Brandon says. “We’re a fraction of the size of some of these big companies, a tiny fraction. The dollars we give are not insignificant, but it’s really about the awareness and the platform we have.”
As Brandon has seen firsthand, success comes in many different forms, not just ticket sales or sponsorships. In early June, Brandon stood among some basketball greats from the NBA and WNBA, including many Hall of Famers, as they all marveled at the scene at McClymonds High. The Warriors Community Foundation had helped refurbish the gym at the Oakland school—its 86th project thus far. Brandon saw so much pride among present and past McClymonds High and NBA players: Bill Russell, Amisha Carter, Will Cherry, Antonio Davis, Joe Ellis. “It really hit home,” he says. “They came from all over to be at their high school. I felt fortunate, and it was so much fun to be a small part of that.”
As Brandon launches into his new role, he recalls the autonomy that Menlo gave its students—this is something Brandon hopes to give his employees, much like what his predecessor Rick Welts did for him.
Among Brandon’s favorite Menlo memories are the everyday ones like participating in the math contests in “The Neighborhood,” getting bagels at lunch, walking around the Quad, and most of all being with friends and teachers, such as Janet Tennyson, who started at Menlo when Brandon was there. To this day, he challenges himself to speak Spanish wherever he can, whether traveling or in restaurants.
“Some of my closest friends today are those I went to high school with,” Brandon says. “It’s just a time I’ll never forget, and it set the stage.”