Steve Kerr’s toughest job: Winning over Warriors players

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The Golden State Warriors’ players loved Mark Jackson. They had bonded over basketball and religious faith, they were willing to run through walls for him.

And he got unceremoniously axed. Something he and everyone else knew was coming.

Ric Bucher points out something interesting at Bleacher Report — notice there have been no welcoming tweets, no tweets of support for Kerr from any of the Warriors players?

That’s not an accident.

“That is out of loyalty to Coach Jackson,” said the player, who requested anonymity. “It has nothing to do with Steve. Just meeting him when he worked our games, he seems like a nice guy. It has to do more with how Coach was done. Guys loved Coach Jackson. They’d run through a wall for him. It hasn’t really set in that he’s gone and someone else has been hired.”

The players’ pointed silence is about Jackson, despite their pleas that he be retained, getting axed less than 72 hours after their season ended with a first-round Game 7 loss on the road to the Los Angeles Clippers. It’s about Jackson, as a first-time coach, having to settle for a four-year, $8 million deal, while Kerr, a first-time coach, signed a five-year, $25 million package, totally guaranteed. It’s about the vast majority of the players and staff sharing Jackson’s Christian faith and attending services to hear him preach at his non-denominational church, while knowing that Kerr developed a similar bond with team owner Joe Lacob over two decades of shared golf and venture capital interests.

Of all of the obstacles in Kerr’s way as a first-time coach, this is the biggest.

It’s not that Kerr can’t coach or motivate (we don’t know), it’s not that the players dislike him. It’s that he’s not Mark Jackson.

Kerr realizes it to and talked about that with Monte Poole of CSNBayArea.com.

“I know I have big shoes to fill,” Kerr said Friday, speaking from his San Diego home. “Mark was very successful there and has done a great job with the players. They all appreciated him.

“But I look at that as a positive because I’m inheriting a good team. I’d rather inherit a good team with expectations than a bad team with a low bar. It’s not even close. So I’m aware there are going to be expectations. That comes with the territory. I would challenge anybody to find a job in the NBA that isn’t rife with challenges. They’re all just a little different.”

Kerr said he has talked to virtually every single player, which is a start.

What Kerr has going for him is that this team is good, and it is close to contending. The players know it. They don’t want to throw that away on a futile protest, they still want to win. Kerr can rally them around that idea, try to lift them to the next level with a new system and different energy.

Eventually he should get everyone to buy in, but it’s going to take a lot of work. That’s not all on Kerr, it’s really on owner Joe Lacob.