Kerr and Simmons, Part 1
The Warriors started their longest road trip of the year in Los Angeles on Wednesday night, so Steve Kerr had time to stop and pod with Bill Simmons. Kerr has been a guest on Simmons’ show for over ten years (podcasts have been around for that long!). Their most recent conversation is split into two parts. Simmons crowd-sourced fun questions and let Kerr have at it.
The “year after” season
Simmons asked Kerr about the collective fatigue that engulfs a team after winning the Finals.
“Everyone is exhausted” and after winning a championship, “motivation wanes a bit...we don’t have that same edge we’ve had like the last couple years and I’m perfectly fine with it,” said Kerr. After the recent loss to the Kings and an overtime win against the Lakers on Wednesday, Kerr’s explanation especially makes sense. It’s a long season, and as fans, we need to stay patient with this group of world beaters as they nurse the championship hangover.
University of Arizona
Kerr’s college days remain a topic of endless fascination for me. In the late eighties, players stayed all four years and Kerr was dealing with the loss of his father. Kerr told Simmons that Sean Elliott was his favorite teammate. Elliott was the 1988-1989 Wooden Award winner.
“He [Elliott] is modest, humble, and a great team guy. He was the reason we went to the Final Four and the reason why the program took off.”
Simmons also asked Kerr who on Arizona was the best flirter. Kerr told a hilarious story about a team dinner, “maybe at a Fridays.” A gorgeous waitress was waiting on their table and everyone on the team wanted her number. His Arizona teammate and then-future Warrior, Tom Tolbert, got her number. Not only that, but they got married and are still married today. Amazing story.
Jaylen Brown and the Boston Celtics
Bill Simmons is always eager to discuss his beloved Boston Celtics and Kerr is honest in his respect for Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens.
Part of the Celtics success is, “The league is about having a bunch of 6’7 guys who can guard,” and “switch on defense,” said Kerr. Both the Celtics and Warriors employ players with such skills.
Kerr also mentioned how impressed he is with Boston’s second-year star, Jaylen Brown. We forget Nick Kerr, Steve’s son, walked-on for the California Golden Bears during Brown’s freshman year. Kerr drove his son and Brown to a few Warriors games that season. He expressed not only how Brown’s play impressed him but also his demeanor and maturity.
We’ve all either read about, watched video of, or lived through Michael Jordan’s career. We know Jordan was hyper-competitive, but Kerr’s anecdotes enliven Jordan’s legacy.
Kerr explains how Jordan kept a substantial entourage with him throughout his career, and on the road he mostly stayed in the hotel and played high stakes poker with them. It’s fun to dream up what Jordan’s hobbies could have been other than gambling (hotel pools, dog parks, Seinfeld?).
At the end of Bulls’ practices, he and Jack Haley started the “Jack Haley Shoot-Out” and teammates would chuck 35-40 footers from the hash mark. Jordan watched their competition one day and their innocuous game was never the same. Jordan is like the kid on the playground who totally ruins the pick-up game. “There was money involved.” If Jordan won, “he [Jordan] demanded the money right away,” said Kerr.
Kerr and Simmons Part 2
In Part 1 of the podcast the two discuss Draymond Green’s competitiveness, but I found this part more interesting from Part 2.
Question: Is there anything you can do to stop Draymond from “going red?”
Kerr: “It’s been an interesting development this year. The first year, we would just yell and scream at each other. I would scream at him to calm down. Then I realized he needed the outlet to play well so then I backed off. Now we know each other so well that it’s like we are family...Maybe I’m more like an older brother. He know’s I’ve seen a lot in the NBA and respects my experience in the league and knows I care about him. And he knows I don’t have all the answers... It’s more of a collaboration now than it ever has been. But I try to keep him moving forward in the right direction with the allowance of the occasional blowup because he needs it.”
The more I learn about Draymond Green, the more I think he’d really struggle on a team with a different coach.
Best story from 2001-2002 Portland Trail Blazers (aka the Jail Blazers):
Kerr: My favorite stories are Zach Randolph stories. I’m the biggest Zach fan on earth. He’s got a heart of gold. When we got him, he was an absolute puppy. The stewardess on the plane called him the baby. He would sit in this compartment with Chris Dudley and me. And Dudley and I were at the very end. Zach’s just starting and has no idea about the league. He’s wide-eyed wondering what’s going on. Probably a month into the season you could tell he’s just exhausted. And he goes, “Hey guys, when do we get to go home for Christmas?” And I look at Duds like “why don’t you take this one.” And these questions came all year.
Kerr went on about Randolph’s wonderful career and how he truly became one of the great success stories in the league while giving so much back to be a “pillar in the community.”
My favorite question of the whole mailbag: “What’s your favorite NBA road city to grab a post game meal in? Kerr went off the beaten path: Salt Lake City, Valters Osteria.
“We rent the place out and do a team meal there.” Check out the menu; it looks delicious.
Kerr went on to tell a story about one of Greg Popovich’s famous team dinners and how he always asks non-Spurs to join. In Kerr’s first year as a coach, Popovich shocked him and asked Kerr to join the Spurs’ team dinner after a game against the Warriors! At first Kerr felt weird, but his former coach convinced him.
“I walked into dinner with Tim [Duncan], Tony [Parker], Manu [Ginobili]. It was great, had a great dinner. He’s the best, those dinners are amazing,” said Kerr. That’s pretty cool.
One of the mailbag questions referenced Kerr’s favorite inbound plays:
“I’ve never made one [a play] up,” said Kerr. “You just steal from other coaches. Brad Stevens draws up great stuff. Dave Joerger runs really good stuff too.”
GSoM’s Eric Apricot recently featured, “The Cyclone” play in a recent piece and discussed Fred Hoiberg’s usage of the play at Iowa State. Kerr brings up the exact play and goes on to share that he and Hoiberg got lunch over summer league and Hoiberg told him, “I noticed you’ve been running our play.” “Yeah, we call it the Cyclone,” Kerr told him. Hoiberg thought this was funny. “I call it Cougar! Because we stole it from BYU.” It’s a great anecdote that supports the notion of coaches playing off each other.
Head Coaching Jobs
Kerr is convinced that successful coaches need to start in the right place.
“Most coaches aren’t able to take the job they want. Brad [Stevens] was coaching Butler and I was in Indianapolis for a Big Ten Tournament.” They got lunch and Stevens was curious about Kerr’s thoughts on his job offers.
“Brad took the right job... he got a six year contract and had a partner in Danny Ainge. In my experience, you need to take the right job... The beginning of your career sets everything up.”
Kerr uses recently-fired Memphis Grizzlies Coach, David Fizdale as an example
“I think David Fizdale is one of the best coaches in the league. But he ran into a difficult situation... But he didn’t really have a choice. He had a chance for an NBA job. He had to take it, but he didn’t get the support he needed to stick around. I’m sure he’ll have a second act... Where they [coaches] go wrong is taking the wrong job.”
Keep podcasting Bill Simmons, keep showing up Steve Kerr. I will do what I know and continue to love the NBA.