Here is a link to my Friday column about the Warriors and Steve Kerr. The full text runs below:
As I’m writing this column, the Warriors have agreed “in principle” for Steve Kerr to be their next head coach.
Owner Joe Lacob and his management team get credit as big as Alaska for targeting their next coach, pursuing their next coach — they flew to Oklahoma City and made their presentation before Kerr was going to announce a playoff game. And they get credit for getting their new coach. In principle.
The Lacob Warriors are winners. They think big. They act big. They got the team by outbidding Larry Ellison. You were thinking, “Who is this guy Lacob to go against Ellison?” And Lacob beat Ellison. He’s a winner.
I admit to being puzzled by this “in principle” detail. You either sign a coach or you don’t sign a coach. If things are at the in-principle stage, you don’t say a word, don’t issue a press release, don’t tell the world until you take down the in-principle clause. Making the in-principle announcement makes the Warriors seem nervous. You can almost hear them saying to fans, “You doubted us but we got our first choice. In principle.”
Enough with semantics. The Warriors’ brain trust is one of the smartest in the NBA. They know what they are doing. We’re talking Lacob, Bob Myers, Jerry West, Travis Schlenk and Kirk Lacob.
Kerr, to the extent we know anything about him, is a better choice than Mark Jackson who was almost a detonation bomb in the Warriors’ hierarchy. He didn’t get along with the basketball operations people. He had an unfortunate us-vs.-them style. And the “them” included most people in the organization who didn’t wear playing shorts. I’m told he did not allow the team announcers to eat with the team on the road. Them.
Jackson did not have the savvy to get along with ownership. He was an all-around problem. For all those reasons, the Warriors were right to get rid of him and right to hire a new coach.
That leads to the next question, the really important question. When the Warriors hired a new coach in principle, did they hire the right coach?
Kerr never has coached a game in the NBA. Never coached a game anywhere, as far as we know. Jackson never had been a coach, either. While never coaching any games is not a deal breaker, it’s not exactly a strong feature on someone’s job application.
INTERVIEWER: “Steve, it says here you want to coach our professional basketball team. What experience do you have in this particular area?”
KERR: “None, sir.”
INTERVIEWER: “You’re hired.”
Kerr’s attributes seem to be, in principle, that he has a long career as a player, that he played on five championship teams under Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich, that he was general manager in Phoenix three years and that he’s currently an announcer.
One of his most attractive features, it seems, is his friendship with Phil Jackson, the Zen Master Coach, Kerr’s pal. The thinking goes — if Phil wanted Steve for the Knicks, Steve must be pretty hotsy-totsy. Call it brilliance through friendship. The Warriors saw that and wanted Steve too.
When all the euphoria drains out, as euphoria always does, we are left with one big salient shrieking question: Can Steve Kerr be a top-level coach in the NBA? He’s reportedly getting $25 million for five years. That’s top-level dough.
Can he lead players, especially players who were committed to Mark Jackson, who bought into Jackson’s style and his message?
The answer is to be determined.
But Kerr has advantages over Jackson, isn’t the same mere announcer-turned-head-coach Jackson was. By virtue of his GM experience, Kerr has a background in personnel. Jackson had none. Kerr has a background in player development. Jackson, not so much. As GM, Kerr was a manager. Jackson wasn’t. Kerr will get along with ownership. Jackson didn’t see the point.
Lacob constantly says Kerr will be “prepared.” The word “prepared” is big in his Kerr Lexicon — “very prepared,” “incredibly prepared.” And it means Kerr will be prepared and Jackson was not prepared. Jackson’s lack of preparation showed when the Warriors lost at home to bottom-dweller teams.
And, from what we hear, Kerr is a confident man. That means he will hire the best assistant coaches. Kerr will not feel threatened by a serious basketball man sitting on his bench — he almost certainly needs input from a top-level strategist. Jackson had a horror of being shown up by an assistant. In one conversation with me, he referred to one of his former assistants as an “underling.”
Jackson was not up to having a good coaching staff. Kerr will be. He better be.
With all these benefits, with all the support he will receive, with all his abilities, Kerr still has to sit on the bench and decide when to substitute, who to substitute, when to call timeout. You know, be a coach.
Is he up to the rigorous task of going against Doc Rivers or Gregg Popovich? There is no answer. We can’t honestly say yes or no. He hasn’t yet coached the Warriors, hasn’t told Stephen Curry what to do. He hasn’t even held preseason camp. Everything with Kerr is in the future.
I’ll tell you what this daring hire is all about. It’s about the credibility of the current ownership. Lacob, to his credit, reaches for the moon. Bob Myers reaches for the moon. They have dreams as big as the universe. We applaud their dreams.
If Kerr succeeds, takes the Warriors deep into the playoffs, maybe even wins a title, Lacob is among the best, most visionary owners in the league. If this hire fails, Lacob doesn’t look so good.
This is by far the biggest test he has faced. Give him credit for bringing on the test. For embracing it.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.