When Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob and general manager Bob Myers let go of previous head coach Mark Jackson, some people around the NBA world questioned the decision.
The Warriors were coming off of a tough seven-game series loss to the L.A. Clippers in the first-round of the 2014 playoffs. Being eliminated by a tough “Lob City” team wasn’t anything to be embarrassed about, it was still seen a step back, after the Dubs were in the second-round the season before.
There was growing tension between the front office and Jackson. Although the head coach had built good relationships with hid players, the disconnect with the higher-ups was something that couldn’t be rectified.
Jackson’s inability to get along with anyone else other than the players was becoming a source of frustration for the other members of the organization.
Lacob also cited Jackson’s choices of his assistant coaches as a major sticking point between the two:
“Do whatever it is to get the best assistants there are in the world. Period. End of story. Don’t want to hear it. And (Jackson’s) answer . . . was, ‘Well, I have the best staff.’ No you don’t.”
The team decided to let go of Jackson on May 6, 2014, clearing the way for one of the most important decisions in franchise history.
With a team on the cusp of entering the NBA elite, Myers and Lacob knew they had to hit a home run with the hire.
Enter Steve Kerr.
Kerr had never been a head coach, or even assistant for the matter. He won five NBA championships as a player with the Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs before moving into the broadcast booth with TNT as an analyst. Following that, Kerr spent three seasons as the general manager of the Phoenix Suns before stepping down in 2010.
No one knew what to expect from Kerr, but you couldn’t deny he was a brilliant basketball mind.
It was smooth sailing from the moment he took over. Kerr led the Warriors to a 14-game winning streak early in the 2014-15 season, and was the first coach in NBA history to start his career 19-2.
The Dubs won 67 games that season en route to claiming the NBA title. It was the first of five-straight NBA Finals appearance for Golden State, with the Warriors claiming three championships over that stretch, not to mention leading the team to a record-setting 73-9 record in 2016.
For me, it’s Kerr’s style that makes him special as a coach. When he first came in, his offense was a mix of what he learned from Phil Jackson and Gregg Poppovich as a player, combined with nuances that were better suited for the new NBA. He changed things up when Kevin Durant joined the team, showing his ability to adapt and be successful.
Another aspect Kerr excels in is understanding how to handle all the different personalities in an NBA locker room. From writing a letter to Draymond Green, to learning not to yell at Klay Thompson, Kerr just has a way of knowing how to push the right buttons.
Kerr discussed how he figured out Klay during the latest episode of his Runnin’ Plays podcast:
“My very first season, I lit into Klay. I took an early timeout, lit into Klay, and he didn’t respond very well,” Kerr said. “And he went out and was kind of rattled, made a couple mistakes. “I kind of checked that box,” I said, ‘Klay’s not a guy who’s going to respond to yelling.’”
Even with the ugly 2019-20 season, Kerr has a record 337-138 over his six seasons, ranking second in winning percentage in NBA coaching history, behind only Nick Nurse of the Toronto Raptors.
Who knows how long he will stick around, but we are lucky have Kerr coaching the Warriors and should enjoy every moment of it.
Do you think the Warriors would have won a championship with Mark Jacson as head coach?
Onto some more links:
Speaking of Kerr’s podcast, you can check out the latest episode of his show with Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll. (SoundCloud)
We have written about the topic on this site, but the debate will continue for quite some time. Now, ESPN’s Michael Wilbon joined Zach Lowe on his latest podcast and weighed in on who would have won a series between the 1996 Bulls and 2017 Warriors. (h/t NBC Bay Area)
With ESPN’s documentary, The Last Dance, which highlights Michael Jordan leading the Chicago Bulls to a dominant run in the 90s being so great, Sports Illustrated takes a stab at how a similar documentary on the Warriors dynasty would look.
Although he may not have lived up to the expectations of being a No. 1 overall pick, former Dubs center Andrew Bogut made a big impact on the game. Sporting News looks back at how the 2015 NBA champion grew the game in his native Australia, and Draymond Green explains how Bogut helped him become the defensive player he is today.