OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Golden State Warriors formally introduced Steve Kerr as their new head coach on Tuesday. Kerr becomes the 25th head coach in franchise history and 20th since the team moved to the West Coast in 1962.
In a press conference held at the team’s practice facility in Oakland, Warriors general manager Bob Myers explained his reasons for hiring Kerr and his winning pedigree was at the top of the list.
“When you strip it all away, what matters most is winning and sitting to my left is somebody that has won at every level.” Myers said. “Steve Kerr can sit and look at our players and on one hand has five championship rings and I can tell you that resonates. That resonates with me. That resonated with ownership and that will resonate with our players.”
Kerr played 15 seasons in the NBA and won five championships. Kerr was part of the Chicago Bulls’ second three-peat and won two with the San Antonio Spurs. Kerr is one of only 25 players in history to have won five rings and one of only two non-Boston Celtics to win four straight titles.
Like Mark Jackson before him, Kerr has been a television analyst and will be a first-time head coach. Myers and the Warriors’ front office had some concerns over that lack of coaching experience. That was the ultimate question they asked Kerr when they interviewed him last Tuesday in Oklahoma City. Kerr passed with flying color.
“The best thing I think I heard in that response was he didn't run from that,” Myers said. “Steve said, ‘I haven’t coach before. I’m well aware of that. But I’m going to work hard and surround myself with people that can help me get better at each and every day, I’m going to become a little bit better than the day before as a coach in this league.’ We believe that and for us it was the right answer. It was confidence combined with humility and we love that combination of Steve.”
Kerr has a built-in advantage over Jackson in that he has run a professional organization before. After his retirement, Kerr was the general manager of the Phoenix Suns for three seasons. Kerr will no doubt manage up and sideways better than his predecessor. Kerr was asked why he wants to be a coach and why now.
“This is something I've thought about for a long time,” Kerr said. “I've been in the NBA for 26 years now, 15 as a player, eight as a broadcaster and three as a general manager. The greatest moments of my career have come through team building and being a part of something special. Whether it was going to the Final Four with my teammates at Arizona or being on championship teams with Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich.
“It was the magic that occurs when a group of players and coaches and an organization can come together and achieve something special. You can’t find that anywhere else and so I've been intrigued by coaching for a long time.”
Kerr also felt the timing was right to take on his first coaching gig now that his three children are grown up. Two of his children are in college and the other is in high school.
“I decided to go into television because I was raising young kids,” Kerr said. “Now they're all in college. They don't even know where I am anymore or what I'm doing. Now it’s the time where I can create that balance between family and work and do it quite easily.”
The only question for Kerr would be where he would begin his coaching career. Most expected it to be with the New York Knicks and under the tutelage of legendary Phil Jackson. But Kerr surprised everyone by choosing the Warriors.
“I felt like I was choosing between two unbelievable opportunities,” Kerr said. “The Knicks, the brand speaks for itself. It’s Phil Jackson. He's been one of my mentors. The thought of having him guide me through my young coaching career was enticing. There were a lot of great things about the Knicks. He laid out a great plan. I talked to Steve Mills and several people in the organization. I'm convinced Phil is going to make it work in New York. But when I sat down with the Warriors, it just clicked on a lot of fronts. I think it's a better fit for me.”
Kerr was already familiar with key members of the Warriors' front office. Kerr knew Myers, then an agent, from his days in Phoenix. Kerr met Warriors owner Joe Lacob through mutual acquaintances. Kerr also had a key connection with team president Rick Welts.
“A really big connection for me was Rick Welts, who I worked with for three years in Phoenix and who became one of my closest confidants as a general manager and who’s remained a friend since,” Kerr said. “So the day we sat down and met in Oklahoma City, it clicked. Everything clicked.”
It helped that the Warriors are based in the Golden State and not in the Big Apple.
“It also meant a lot to me that my family is located here in California,” Kerr said. “My daughter is right here in my backyard now at Cal. That means a lot. My son, who plays basketball at University of San Diego, will come up here four times a year to play the WCC schools in the area. Those are really important things. The balance between my family and my career has always been of the utmost importance because for me to do a good job with my work. I've got to be happy on my personal side as well.”
Kerr understand that big challenges and obstacles are sure to be coming his way. But knows he will be ready because of his preparation and work ethic.
“I've been preparing in a lot of ways.” Kerr said. “Attending training camps of people like Hubie Brown, Don Nelson and Gregg Popovich. I've consulted a lot of former coaches in a lot of different sports. I've put together a philosophy and a plan so I've been preparing for this and I'm well aware that I haven't done it and I’m going to have a lot to learn and I’m planning on putting in the work to learn as much as I can and put the people around me to help me be as good as I can.”
Kerr mentioned magic earlier in his press conference. He first felt that magic when he played at Arizona under the legendary Lute Olson, who was in attendance at the press conference.
“Getting the opportunity with coach Olson was what started my whole career,” Kerr said. “When I arrived at Arizona, it was the same year that he arrived. I think the team was 4-24 the year before. Coach had to build it from the ground up. So I learned an awful lot about consistency of effort, of preparation and consistency of the message that he provided for the players each day. I was part of that growth in the process and that’s something that I will never forget.”
Kerr knows that having a strong staff will be important to his success with the Warriors. This was something that Jackson sorely lacked toward the end of his tenure.
“The staff absolutely matters and it will be huge for me,” Kerr said. “Not only this coming year, but for many years ahead. I won't offer any names. I can tell you there are a lot of them. Everybody's calling me and emailing me. I have a list and Bob has assisted me with that list along with Travis (Schlenk). We are talking every day about potential candidates. I know that I want head coaching experience next to me, and so that will be something you'll see.”
When Jackson was hired three years ago, he used catch phrases and promised big things. Kerr was the opposite of Jackson Tuesday by tempering expectations.
“The goal is not a finite number of wins,” Kerr said. ”Having a swing at the plate, year in and year out, that's what we’re after here. Some years that might mean we are a one seed. Some years it might mean we slip out of the playoffs altogether. But I think everybody on the management side is on board with that vision of we've got a chance to be really good for the next decade. Let’s just take a swing every year. Let's be consistent with our efforts year in and year out and we’ll have our chances.”
Kerr remains with TNT until the Western Conference Finals are over. Myers believes he hired the right man for the job.
“When you embark upon this journey of trying to win a championship, there are a lot of big decisions,” Myers said. “But we feel, in Steve, we hit it right. We are just so glad it worked out and he said yes.”