Here is a brief personal story to begin today’s post. When I was in kindergarten, the Bulls were the best in the world. Like everyone else, I loved MJ and Scottie. My favorite player, however, was number 25, Steve Kerr. Kerr was a feisty point guard and a clutch 3-point specialist. We also had the same haircut. I followed Kerr’s career closely till he retired and then enjoyed his insight as a commentator. Every time I heard Kerr speak, I learned something.
People thought I was nuts when I said the Golden State Warriors were going to win the NBA Championship in eight months in October of 2014. Three years prior, the Warriors brought in Mark Jackson and 21-year-old, Klay Thompson. Thompson averaged 12 points a game in his rookie year while the Warriors new coach instilled a defensive identity and confidence into his young team.
The young Warriors continued to develop, winning 51 games in the 2013-14 season. Despite the success and development of his young team, Mark Jackson was fired following the season. While eyebrows were raised across the basketball landscape, the Warriors became contenders the second they inked Steve Kerr. Despite having never coached at any level, Kerr’s experience made him the perfect candidate to become a historically good basketball coach.
Kerr’s coaching tree is quite impressive. In college, Kerr played for Lute Olson from 1983-84, through the 1987-88 season, including a redshirt season in 1986-87. Kerr’s NBA coaches included some of the greatest of all-time. After staying in Arizona as a member of the Pheonix Suns his rookie year, Kerr headed east to Clevland where he spent four years under the second-winningest coach in NBA history, Lenny Wilkens. Kerr was traded to Orlando in December of 1992 where he finished the season.
The following offseason, Kerr joined the Chicago Bulls, playing in Phil Jackson’s triangle offense and winning the first three of his four straight titles from 1996 Finals through the 1998 series. Following the Bulls breakup, Kerr was traded to the San Antonio Spurs for Chuck Person and a 1999 first round pick. Kerr and the rest of the Spurs would dominate the New York Knicks in five games and essentially the rest of his career on the bench of Greg Popovich.
After winning another title with the Spurs in 2003, Kerr retired as a player. He never truly left the game. Kerr joined TNT as a broadcaster building upon the foundation of knowledge planted in his basketball game by playing with and under some of the all-time greats. In 2004, Kerr joined the Pheonix Suns as a consultant, staying in the broadcast game all the while.
In the summer of 2007, Kerr became the Suns President and General Manager. Kerr stepped down from the position in the summer of 2010 and returned to broadcasting. Kerr, of course, left broadcasting once more to take the head coaching job with the Golden State Warriors in 2014.
Kerr came in armed with over a decade of secondhand knowledge from Phil Jackson, Greg Popovich and others with an incredible knowledge of the NBA from his post-playing career as a broadcaster and member of the Suns front office. Kerr likely would have thrived or still be thriving wherever he decided to coach but the Warriors were a hand-in-glove fit for the man with the highest 3-point field goal percentage in NBA history.
When Kerr came to the Warriors, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson’s green light from 3-point land got a little greener and the use of the Warriors do-it-all X-factor, Draymond Green increased substantially with his minutes per game increasing from 21 to 32. Green’s minutes were not all that increased though. The Warriors’ 247 passes per game were last in the league in in 2013-14 and resulted in 23 assists per game. Under Kerr, the assists numbers jumped to 27 per game to lead the NBA and 67 wins. The following year, the Warriors assists per game jumped up to 29 as the Warriors cruised to their historic 73 wins.
Love them or hate them, the Warriors and their coach are leading a basketball revolution and winning the NBA arms race. Kerr’s implementation of a triangle hybrid combines the elements that made the 90s Bulls offense tick with an understanding of the modern game which is predicated on 3-point shooting. The result, Kerr and the Warriors have been to the finals each year he has been there and has never failed to win at least 67 games.
Steve Kerr has already cemented himself as one of the greatest coaches ever and frankly, we should have seen it coming.