GSOM Roundtable: On Steve Kerr, making the leap, the Draft, and Mark Jackson

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Where Ronaldinho, Nate Parham, Sam Sorkin, Ivan Bettger, and I discuss various Golden State Warriors topics.

1) How much would the hiring of someone like David Blatt, an accomplished offensive superstar coach, matter to a rookie head coach in Steve Kerr?

Ronaldinho:

It's really hard to say. Maybe Kerr already has a very strong grasp of NBA offenses. Maybe there's somebody else they're interviewing who has a similar type of knowledge, who isn't a "superstar" but brings a lot to the table. Or maybe it's vital.

I'm not worried so much about any big names the team picks up. I'm confident that we'll hire the guys Steve needs to help him win. What's important to me is that we have a staff that works well together, so that we get the most out of all the coaches we have.

Ivan (@ivanbe):

Conventional wisdom says yes, young inexperienced rookie coaches need accomplished, seasoned, scheme-savvy assistants telling them how to move their pieces about the board.

You look at the NBA coaching landscape, though, and you start to wonder - is CW wrong, as it so often is? Jeff Hornacek, with only a couple full time years as assistant (under the coaching genius Tyron Corbin) coached the hell out of the Suns in his first year, without a superstar assistant under him. Mike Malone, also a rookie coach, admittedly was billed under Mark Jackson as a top-notch assistant, but he himself didn't get any coaching rockstars to help out in his first year. (Unless you count "Big Nasty" Corliss Williamson! And I would like to, if it allows me to say "‘Big Nasty' Corliss Williamson!" all the time.) Brian Shaw, Brad Stevens, and Brett Brown were all essentially left to their own devices, as were Jacque Vaughn and Steve Clifford the year prior. Jason Kidd was staffed with the seasoned Lawrence Frank in his first year - and had to fire him for subordination. And Mark Jackson got his savvy assistant in Malone, who fairly promptly bolted to his own head coaching gig.

Ultimately, it seems like plenty of inexperienced rookie coaches have fared well without a notable mastermind on their staffs. You might say "sure, but better with than without, right?" Maybe, just maybe. As long as the guy isn't Lawrence Frank, apparently.

Nate P (@NateP_SBN):

Extending Ivan's point, I think that one thing we as fans underestimate is that the soft skills of coaching - communication and the ability to get buy in to a single vision - matters a lot more at the pro level than at other levels. Assuming you're provided with talent, if you have that ability to connect with people and persuade them to play within a role that maximizes their skills it goes a long way.

So the big question for me is exactly that: from the little I know about Jackson and Kerr as an outsider, they're very different personalities and I just wonder how quickly this new staff can get buy-in to a new vision. Might someone experienced with the ins and outs of conceiving, implementing, and executing a plan over 82 games - and troubleshooting whatever bumps in the road they encounter - help Kerr in that process of getting players to buy into a new vision? I think so, but it's really hard to know given the examples that Ivan discussed. To that point though, I'd probably add that some of our biggest gripes with Jackson as a coach - lacking creativity - are things that can come with experience as you deal with different situations and learn different approaches to solving problems. I'd love Kerr to have that voice on his bench, but as of right now I'm going to be patient and see how this plays out.

Andy Liu: (@AndyKHLiu):

No idea and anybody that gives you a concrete answer is either lying to you or someone that's coached or have been privy to what's gone on behind the scenes on an NBA coaching staff. That being said, it does appear that Joe Lacob and Bob Myers has taken to heart the criticism with the Steve Kerr hire - namely, the lack of experience. If they do hire Ron Adams, Chip Engelland, Alvin Gentry, and David Blatt, or just a couple of the four, that's about as All-Star as a coaching staff can get. We just have no idea if this matters or not. Or just hiring four of anyone, doubling the number of coaches from last season (joking, maybe?) - can constitute an upgrade.

2) If there's no blockbuster trade before the season, which aspect of a player's game necessitates the most improvement (Draymond Green shooting, Harrison Barnes dribbling, Nemanja Nedovic anything)?

Sam Sorkin (@samsportfan23):

For the Warriors to reach the upper echelon of the Western Conference and NBA as a whole without a massive blockbuster trade, Draymond Green will need to better his outside shooting quite significantly.

Draymond had a career year off the bench as a do-everything forward, but new head coach Steve Kerr (and whichever "offensive coordinator"/assistant coach management hires) could - and should - envision Green as a stretch power forward. He's an excellent passer, a ferocious rebounder for his size, and a stalwart defensively. However, his shooting lacks touch - Green, for his career, has shot under 30% from the three-point line. If Draymond this season and beyond could raise his three-point percentage to between 35% and 40%, the Warriors will be that much more difficult to guard; there would be greater spacing that would give the NBA's best offensive player not named LeBron James (yes, that would be Stephen Curry) much more room to operate. The quickest and most practical way (without trading anyone) to space the floor and improve the offense would be for Draymond Green to vastly improve his three-point shooting.

Ronaldinho:

I agree with Sam. Draymond's outside shooting is the #1 priority. Obviously, it'd be nice to see Lee's midrange come back, and maybe even see him extend out to 3-pt land, but we've heard talk about him extending his range for several seasons now. But maybe if we land Engelland as an assistant, as Kerr is reportedly trying to do, there might be cause for optimism there.

Obviously, we all want to see Barnes get back on the upward trajectory that defined his rookie season, but I think the easiest way to get more offense out of Bogut, Iguodala, and Barnes is simply going to be to use them better. It's not going to be about individual skill development (although I expect to see some from Barnes) so much as better teamwork resulting it more good looks.

Ivan:

Agreeing with smart people is usually a good idea, but I'll go out on some limbs. Draymond Green is already a golden god. I'm tempted to say something about Nemanja Nedovic, but I don't know if Bob Myers can go into the season resting his hopes on Nedo - even if he improves tremendously, we might not know it as he sits on the bench waiting to get garbage minutes behind Kirk Hinrich or Devin Harris.

Harrison Barnes... No, it's too early in the offseason to go down that rabbit hole.

But here's another name: Festus Ezeli. If Fezzy can improve his offensive game to be non-negative, and come back from a ridiculously long knee surgery recovery to show the same defensive chops and instincts in the lane, he's going to make a big difference. We can't expect Jermaine O'Neal to have extra terrestrials inject him with anti-aging serum again... Or can we?

Nate P:

I was never really sold on Barnes, am pretty sold that Green is on a permanent upward trajectory (that will eventually net him big bucks) and really have no idea what to expect from Nedo. So Ezeli is the one I'm really interested in, as I already mentioned in a recent post. Not to belabor the point, but there are enough question marks about the health of this post rotation that I think just having a guy who can step in for 15-20 minutes when called upon would be a massive boost for this roster.

Andy Liu:

If there aren't any trades of major draft pickups, it has to be Harrison Barnes improving from what was an unforgettably awful sophomore campaign. Perhaps Kerr's Spurs-y offense (the new rage!) will give him more space to operate as a slasher, cutter, dunker.

3) Golden State currently has zero picks in this year's draft, but if the Warriors jump in (like last season), who is a player to consider?

Ronaldinho:

I've heard good things about this Embid fellow.

I kid. I honestly have paid even less attention to the draft this year than I usually do.

Ivan:

I want Dario Saric, someway, somehow. But I'm a Croatian homer and am freshly bitter from the World Cup opening robbery, ahem, match against Brazil. Whatever, Saric is totally the next Dirk Nowitzki, and don't you dare try to spell the name of Nikoloz Tskitishvili.

Nate P:

In Logo I Trust; For Barnes, I Forgive

Andy Liu: They have no picks because of the Andre Iguodala trade so their best bet might be to trade future picks (a respective first rounder in 2015 and 2016, but both untradeable because of the Stepien Rule) to acquire a late-first/second or simply buying one for "cash considerations", whatever that means. If they somehow secure something, I'd wager my bets on a Nik Stauskas. He's likely a lottery pick but remains my favorite player in the Draft because he reminds me of Stephen Curry.

Stauskas morphed his abilities as simply a shooter into a ball handler in the last two seasons, going through a physical transformation as well. The Warriors could either use a superstar like Kevin Love, or if they are forced to keep building depth, a third guard and a big man. Stauskas fills the need as a ball handler to go with extraordinary shooting touch.



4) How much did Joe Lacob and Bob Myers' handling of Mark Jackson's exit affect your feelings of his tenure as head coach?

Ronaldinho:

Well, I was ready to see him go regardless. Overall, the pissing match that happened after the firing didn't make anyone look good. I have my opinions about who is more responsible for that (after all, the team fired Nellie, which was somewhat controversial at the time, without there being a similar whisper campaign about him) but "at the end of the day" Jackson's a guy who did some things well (particularly getting buy-in on defense) but wasn't likely to take us to the next level.

That's how I felt before he was fired. That's how I feel today. The only thing that changed is that the various reports that came out after the firing make me more skeptical about Jackson's ability to learn, and fix his areas of weakness. A guy who is only great at getting buy-in, who has a strong staff and trusts them, can be a very successful coach in this league. That same guy who is in charge of a toxic environment where talented young coaches like Darren Erman get shoved out the door? Not so much.

Ivan:

I was a huge Jackson backer for much of his tenure, and yet was still content, even mildly pleased, to see him go. That's how big of a fiasco the situation had become.

Joe Lacob said something when discussing Jackson's dismissal that I really believe: Mark Jackson was the right coach for the team at the time. He was a culture-changer. He either made guys believe in something - the team, themselves, maybe just him as a coach, I dunno, but something - or was enough of a singular polarizing force to allow them to escape The Curse that has hung over this franchise for so long. Smarter people than I will probably say, "Hey dummy, they finally got good players!" True, that's certainly the driver. Still, I feel like Jackson helped get us over some intangible hump of futility, simply because he was too damned stubborn to let it distract him.

We're over the hump. I believe that. Now we need a coach who doesn't have that singular purpose, one that can use some of the unity and confidence that Jackson brought to the table, but also brings with him a more versatile and extensive box of tools. Really looking forward to Head Coach Stan Van Gundy. Wait, what?

Nate P:

Atma and I went to the fan rally thing at Oracle Arena when they introduced Jackson to season ticket holders and I remember thinking that his aim of getting that roster to become a good defensive team was utterly absurd (not to mention having us practice chanting defense).

Two years later and this team has become one of the best defensive squads in the league.

Whether that's coaching, personnel changes or (more likely) some combination of both, I don't think there's any question that Jackson's leadership as head coach had some part in that massive shift in culture and I don't necessarily think the guys will revert to being a bottom five defense in his absence. But I also think firing him is an enormous risk that might signal something about how Lacob, Myers, & Co. envision the role of a coach: I know some people think it shows that they know better than the guys they pay to coach, but a different spin might be that they don't believe that kind of culture shift is not dependent upon any one individual.

It's really difficult to tell what actually transpired given the way these reports have come out, but I got the sense from the beginning that they saw Jackson as more of a "middle manager" who communicates a message/vision that is agreed collaboratively rather than the central authority from which all else follows. From that perspective, they showed the commitment to getting those defensive guys - Green, Andrew Bogut, Andre Iguodala - and Jackson was able to get the players to commit to a defensive vision. In contrast, the reports about this situation seemed to suggest that Jackson might have taken the opposing perspective in which the coach's authority is more at the center of the decision-making process and all success can be attributed to him alone.

There are pros and cons to both organizational philosophies - personality-driven leadership vs. collaborative leadership - but everyone has to be on the same page and, best I can tell, Jackson was probably an excellent fit for the role they envisioned him in but probably saw himself as more significant to the team's success than management did.

Andy Liu:

There's nothing like grown men squabbling to stoke the flames of controversy! But seriously, the troubling undertones, overtones, or whatever toner we're talking about of race makes this a messier, denser topic of discussion. It ultimately rendered the entire divorce between the two parties something more of a spectacle and talking point that glossed over what seemed like on paper: the necessary progression, albeit the amount of risk involved, from one stalled-out regime to another that's ostensibly built for the long haul.


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