Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post describes an interesting contrast in the coaching strategies of Steve Kerr and Bill Belicheck as their teams pursued championships amid opportunities to achieve milestone records along the way. Steve Kerr encouraged players to think and talk openly about their chase for 73 wins during this season, in sharp contrast to what Belichick demanded of his 2007 New England Patriots in their failed quest for a perfect season.
Belichick essentially muzzled his players, as Rodney Harrison describes it, prohibiting them from acknowledging any desire to be the first team to go 19-0 on the way to a Super Bowl victory. He told his players to hide any feelings and emotions about such an accomplishment, fearing that the expression of those dreams might distract players from the work required to reach the goal of a championship. Belichick did this with the best of intentions, but it put the players in a position of cognitive dissonance in which they were compelled not to act in accordance with how they felt.
This seems to boil down to a fear of failure. If the Patriots publicly admitted that they wanted to set the record and didn't do it, they risked looking like failures even though they had a great and memorable season. There's something worse in our minds about not attaining a certain level of success if beforehand we've made a declaration that we want to achieve that goal. It's interesting that the Patriots had the lead in that Super Bowl before miraculously losing in the final moments. During the New York Giants final drive of that game, were the Patriots playing to win or rather to avoid losing?
This year, rather than try to control and limit what individual players said, Steve Kerr encouraged the Warriors to share their thoughts and emotions related to chasing the record for most wins in a regular season. Kerr also shared his own thoughts and concerns about the potential for the team to wear down or incur injuries, but acknowledged that it was entirely appropriate for his players to have feelings about an opportunity to achieve greatness. Kerr's philosophy of putting everything on the table for discussion allows everyone to be themselves and, ideally, gather consensus as to how to approach the opportunity.
It also seems to be a healthier approach. The players have been honest about their intentions and goals with no need to betray what's truly going on in their heads. A clear conscience allows for the quiet confidence of Leandro Barbosa's "we going to be championship" last season and Klay Thompson suggesting as far back as November that the Warriors could challenge the wins record formerly held by the 95-96 Bulls. Players should have an opportunity embrace challenges like this.
The Warriors, in particular Stephen Curry and Draymond Green, weren't afraid to announce to the world what they hoped to achieve. And what happened during win number 73? In 30 minutes of playing time each, Curry went off for ten three pointers on the way to 46 points and Draymond went for 11 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists. When the pressure is on, the Warriors step up and win more often than not. In addition to being an immensely talented team, it's because this team isn't afraid to lose; its focus is solely on how much it can achieve and Steve Kerr has been effective in supporting that mentality.