Tag: Steve Kerr

Dallas Mavericks v Golden State Warriors

Steve Kerr and David Blatt meet again, this time as rookie coaches in the NBA Finals

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When they first met last June (something set up by their shared agent), David Blatt and Steve Kerr found they had a common vision for how the game of basketball should be played — ball movement, spacing, player movement off the ball, playing uptempo. All of it designed to create just a little space, which is all the best players need to make the defense pay. The two became fast friends and got along so well that after a couple of meetings Kerr offered Blatt a seat next to him as an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors.

But before Blatt accepted, his phone rang. That call ultimately became owner Dan Gilbert and the Cleveland Cavaliers offering Blatt their head coaching job.

Now Blatt and Kerr meet again, but this time as opposing head coaches in the NBA Finals — the first time rookie head coaches have met in the NBA Finals since 1947, the first season the league existed.

However, the pairs’ paths from when they first met to this point couldn’t be much different.

Kerr, patient in taking over for Mark Jackson, got his budding superstar Stephen Curry to buy into all those offensive philosophies he had discussed with Blatt. With the help of lead assistant Alvin Gentry (who will take over as the head coach in New Orleans after these Finals), Kerr built a thoroughly modern NBA offense around Curry and a variety of versatile weapons. The Warriors had the second best offense in the NBA, won 67 games and have been the best team in the Association since the season tipped off. Kerr was a serious candidate for Coach of the Year.

Blatt’s path changed dramatically just a couple weeks after he took the job when LeBron James decided to return to Cleveland — this went from a rebuilding project to a team that could win the title instantly (especially with the addition of Kevin Love). Blatt’s offensive system had to bend to the weight of the NBA’s star system — and that process was not fast and not always pretty. Blatt took criticism at every turn (deserved or not), it seemed everything that went wrong was on him, everything good was on LeBron. The offense struggled some early until the Cavaliers went with something more conventional and comfortable for LeBron and Kyrie Irving. After LeBron James’ mid-season sabbatical, the Cavaliers’ became an offensive force with those conventional looks. From the All-Star Game through the end of the season, the Cavs had the third best offense in the NBA scoring 108.9 points per 100 possessions (trailing only the Spurs and Warriors).

Both teams are in the Finals because of their defense. Again the Warriors have been phenomenal on that end all season. Meanwhile the Cavaliers have started to finally peak on that end in the playoffs (and especially since Tristan Thompson replaced the injured Kevin Love).

What will be most interesting these playoffs is how the two coaches — the two friends — will probe and test those defenses.

Kerr will use the depth and versatility of his offense to find weaknesses in that Cavalier defense. One matchup to watch early is whomever Kyrie Irving is guarding — Irving is not 100 percent, and there is nowhere to hide a player defensively against the Warriors. If he starts out on Stephen Curry, well, Curry will test him both off the dribble and keeping up with him off the ball. Same with Klay Thompson. Maybe the best bet is to hide Irving on Harrison Barnes, but he is another guy who moves incredibly well off the ball, and one who has the size and strength to score on Irving inside.

Golden State also is a team that makes opponents pay for ball watching — and key Cavaliers will do that. Specifically J.R. Smith and LeBron, both of whom could end up trying to track Klay Thompson at times — lose him and the result will be three Warriors points.

Finally, in the regular season the Cavaliers defense — even after the additions of Timofey Mozgov and Iman Shumpert — struggled to move laterally well if the ball switched sides quickly. Good passing would lead to good shots against Cleveland. However, no team has exploited that in the postseason — the Celtics and Bulls were not really built to do so, and the Hawks team that shared the ball to 60 wins didn’t show up for the postseason. Golden State will be a real test of how far Cavaliers defense has come.

On the other sideline, Blatt’s European roots have shown at times in these playoffs, both in good and bad ways.

The most talked about instance led to criticism. In Europe it is common on key late-game possessions to have your best passer — even if it’s your best player — take the ball out of bounds, finding the open man. With the score tied 84-84 in Game 4 against Chicago, and just 1.1 seconds on the clock, Blatt called for LeBron to take the ball out of bounds. LeBron overruled him. LeBron called his own number, which ended up being a step-back corner three to win it for the Cavaliers. After the game, it was LeBron who told the media how that play came to be, reinforcing the idea in the minds of some that he was the real guy in charge. He may well be.

But Blatt has also made decisions — ones influenced by his European roots — that have worked brilliantly for Atlanta. Because there is no real star system in Europe coaches will simply go with the player they think is best, regardless of contract, which is how James Jones has been on the court and playing well instead of guys like Mike Miller in the postseason.

Blatt also has had strong defensive game plans. He looked at a star-less Atlanta team — one that had shot the three ball well most of the season but was not the same by the time of the Eastern Conference Finals — and decided to dare Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap, and basically any Hawk not named Kyle Korver to beat them from three. The Cavaliers went under picks and stayed back. The January Hawks would have carved up that defensive strategy, but these were not the same Hawks. They couldn’t take advantage.

Blatt will need a different defensive strategy this round (I don’t recommend going under picks against Curry), but he has his team peaking at the right time. And he has LeBron’s endorsement (at least publicly). Kerr’s advantage is he has more pieces on the chess board, more and more versatile players he can use to find matchups that work — and he has done that with adjustments each round that the opposing coach simply could not counter.

However the series ends, Blatt and Kerr will hug it out as friends. That hasn’t changed since they first met last June. It’s just everything else since then that has been different.

Steve Kerr says he chose to be the next coach in Golden State because he wanted to win. Now.

Steve Kerr

“I would much rather have talent and expectations than a low bar with a rebidding process ahead.”

If you wanted to know why Steve Kerr chose Golden State over the New York Knicks, that quote from him at his introductory press conference on Tuesday (streamed on CSNBayArea.com) was the clearest answer he gave. Yes, there is more money and more years than New York offered. But Kerr was clear that being on the West Coast close to his family (his daughter is at Cal, his son plays basketball for San Diego State, his other son is still in high school) matters a lot to him and was a big part of his decision.

But once he decided he was in he wanted the chance to win and that’s what Golden State offered — a roster that if well managed should have them in the thick of things in the West for the next decade.

“My view is not ‘we have to win 52 games next year’ or ‘we have to get to the second round,’” Kerr said of his goals. “My view is ’What are we going to do the next decade?’ ‘What are we going to do the next five years?’ My goal is to continue this upward trend the organization is on.”

Kerr was open that he comes into a pressure filled job with no coaching experience, but said this is something he has been building up toward. He said he had developed a philosophy, a plan for being a coach, he had done it over time, but was waiting for the right time to step into that spotlight.

“This is something I have thought about for a long time,” Kerr said. “I’ve been in the NBA 26 years, now, 15 as a player, eight as a broadcaster, three as a general manager, and the greatest moments of my career have come through team building. Whether it was going to the Final Four with my teammates in Arizona or being on champion teams with Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich, it is the magic of those experiences.”

Kerr said multiple times that he thought Mark Jackson had done a good job, and added during the interview process he wanted to know why they let a successful coach go. But he added that he felt a connection.

“I felt like I was choosing between two unbelievable opportunities,” Kerr said. “The Knicks, the brand speaks for itself, Phil Jackson, he’s been one of my mentors, the thought of him guiding me through my young coaching career was enticing. There were a lot of great things about the Knicks, he laid out a great plan….

“But when I sat down with the Warriors it just clicked. It was a better fit for me on a lot of fronts….

“The most important thing I’ve learned in sports is owner/GM/coach, that troika, that relationship between those three, is critical. The relationship between those three will determine how you get through the bumps.”

He thinks that is a fit in Golden State. Also, the roster is a whole lot better than the one in New York. Kerr said he has reached out to every player and spoken to all but a couple. While the players have not been public in showing support for Kerr — out of respect to Mark Jackson, who the players wanted to stay on — Kerr said the conversations have been good.

“The reception has been fantastic,” Kerr said. “One of the reason I wanted to come here was because of the success this team has had the last couple years under Mark, and the talent base that is here, and the character that is quite obvious on the roster.”

As you would expect of a polished broadcaster, Kerr was smooth and said all the right things during his press conference. The public face of the franchise side was never going to be the side Kerr struggled with.

Can he coach? Can he lead this team to the kind of consistency and level of play he talked about in the press conference? That is the real test and it starts soon (Kerr will continue broadcasting with TNT through the end of the Western Conference Finals).

Steve Kerr recalls the time Jordan punched him at practice

Jordan Kerr

It’s just one of the legendary stories about how intense Michael Jordan was during practice for the Bulls…

The day he just punched Steve Kerr during practice.

Kerr, now an analyst with TNT, was on the Dan Patrick show and recalled that day (via Nina Falcone at CSNChicago.com).

“I disagreed with him one time,” Kerr said with a chuckle. “I think he punched me in the face.”

That disagreement happened during a scrimmage at training camp when Kerr took offense to something Jordan said, and he didn’t refrain from expressing his true feelings.

“It was one of the best things that ever happened for me, I needed to stand up and go back at him, I think I earned some respect. But we have a great relationship ever since… you gotta prove it and then once you prove it, you’re fine.”

So it was with Jordan — you needed to gain his respect and trust, and once you did it was all good. But getting there was not easy.

Kerr said he couldn’t recall what the dispute was even about anymore. You wonder if Jordan can.