The Warriors have surged to a 16-0 start with interim coach Luke Walton, as Steve Kerr is out after a bad reaction to his offseason back surgery.
Walton’s coaching record: 0-0.
Per NBA policy, the 16 wins are credited to Kerr.
Kerr and Walton are engaged in a brutal war of deferential humility. To hear Walton tell it, he’s just a functionary, carrying out Kerr’s well-laid plans. To hear Kerr tell it, Walton deserves all the credit.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” Kerr told ESPN.com when asked about getting all of Walton’s wins. “I’m sitting in the locker room and watching the games on TV, and I’m not even traveling to most of the road games. Luke’s doing all the work with the rest of the staff. Luke is 15-0 right now. I’m not. So it’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, to be honest with you. I don’t even understand it.”
Walton expresses no angst over being winless, saying of Kerr, “Steve’s done a lot for me. It’s the least I can do to add a couple wins on his total for him with all he’s done for me.”
This is purely an academic argument. It doesn’t really matter which coach gets the wins.
But we care about records in sports, so it is important to get this right. Personally, I think Walton should get credit. He’s the head coach for these games.
The biggest counterargument is that Kerr is still involved, which is true. But he’s involved on a level more in line with an assistant. Several people are involved in a team’s coaching for every game. Only the head coach gets the win or loss on his record.
The Warriors have designated Walton their head coach. He should get the wins.
The biggest hindrance in changing the policy is probably retroactively altering other coaches’ records. Specifically, Don Nelson is the all-time wins leader with just three more than Lenny Wilkins. But the Mavericks went 10-4 in 2004-05 while coached by Avery Johnson as Nelson attended to health issues, both his own and his wife’s. Nelson stepped down for good later in the season, and Johnson’s 16-2 finish goes to Johnson. But Johnson’s first 14 games as acting head coach are credited to Nelson. Does the NBA want to revoke Nelson’s wins record over this?
So, this issue is bigger than the Warriors.
For them, the key facts much simpler. An undefeated team has two people fighting to credit the other for its success.
Whomever officially gets the wins, this is a healthy organization.