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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.”

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 lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.

 

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20 Comments

  1. parnell

    Apparently Doc Rivers wasn’t up to the rigorous task of going against Scott Rivers. The NBA is about the players. It’s always been about the players.

    May 15th, 2014 11:24 pm

  2. parnell

    Late correction — this just in — the OKC coach is Scott Brooks. Scott Rivers is a figment of my keyboard’s imagination.

    May 15th, 2014 11:26 pm

  3. Johnc

    Hired in principle means sale pending.Not a
    done deal.
    I laughed at the” you’re hired ” for having no coaching experience comment. It is the antidote to the Donald Trump “you’re fired” for lacking qualifications school of thought.

    May 16th, 2014 1:59 am

  4. TonyT

    I recommend reading Tim Kawakami’s interview

    We still don’t know how well he can coach, but at least:
    1. He’s serious about it and has been preparing for years (he did research on the Warriors, too)
    2. It looks like Curry is buying in
    3. He’s gracious towards Mark Jackson (deservedly so; the Warriors are much better than before MJ)

    May 16th, 2014 9:13 am

  5. Mark M

    This whole euphoria about this hire feels mighty odd. I like Kerr and feel he might work out, pretty much the same way I felt about Jackson when he was hired. And that worked out pretty well, so maybe it will here too. Lacob and Co. deserve a level of trust at this point.

    But….

    Talk about the great unknown. How on earth do they justify that type of money for an unknown. Isn’t it a very real possibility he could flop with NO coaching experience? It seems likely he’ll struggle the first year getting used to this role, so is ownership cool with a transition season and accompanying results? It’s not a patient group.

    I’m hopeful but the euphoria I’m seeing feels out of whack.

    May 16th, 2014 9:21 am

  6. Stan

    Everything I’ve read sounds like straight from the Joe Lacob publicity dept. The fact that every African American coach that was on the team is unemployed…but a crook like Erman and a disrespectful Scalabini are employed is ignored by media, says something huge here.
    And – I laugh at even how MT2,Raddy and Kruegy,Fitzy are now saying “its the players,not the coach in the NBA”..and yet Jackson was ripped for being ” a bad strategy coach” by those same. So ,which is it?..51 wins.
    I think its shameful that the media- especially knbr- has been on a defend Joe in all ways possible mode. “3 years is about all a coach is good for”..says 9-12. Really? then why give Kerr 5 years?..for double,triple, what Jackson was paid?
    This stinks to high heaven.

    May 16th, 2014 10:07 am

  7. Dennis

    Stan,

    Was it racism when they hired Jackson or just when they let him go?

    May 16th, 2014 11:59 am

  8. Steve the cat rescuer

    I can’t help but draw parallels to the Giants signing of Barry Zito. A fan popular, successful superstar African American player (Barry Bonds), who is media unfriendly and a thorn in management’s side, finally wears out his welcome and is replaced by a white, spiffy clean “good guy” at a grossly overinflated price and length of contract. The key words here are “good guy.” In every article I’ve read about Kerr, and every interview I’ve seen with various Warriors personnel, local pundits and media types, “good guy” is the one description that universally appears, as it did when the Giants signed Zito. Hopefully Kerr will work out, but his personnel decisions as GM set back Phoenix for years. As a broadcast analyst, I haven’t heard him offer any strategic revelations, a la Dr. Jack Ramsey, Hubie Brown or Jeff Van Gundy. I’m sure the porcelain doll center is happy – Kerr will never wonder out loud if he hurt himself while sleeping, but it’s telling that the rest of the team is thus far somewhat muted (including Curry) in their response and/or endorsement of the new “in principle” coach.

    May 16th, 2014 12:20 pm

  9. Stan

    One more thing,when Lacob fired “The winningest coach in NBA history” after meeting with him? We applauded that. But when he fires 100 wins in two years,plus a great 10 game winning streak coach,best results since Nirvana was at the top of the charts, Warrior HC? You then go to Hmmm?.

    When does “philosophical differences” blur to maybe ego maniacal owner who doesn’t have trust in those just not like him and is not open to other ways?. Even if they won 100 games in two years.

    May 16th, 2014 3:18 pm

  10. Dennis

    Stan,

    This will explain why Jackson was fired and make you wonder how he lasted as long as he did.
    http://www.bayareasportsguy.com/jim-barnett-on-warriors-coaching-change-i-think-they-made-the-right-decision-quite-frankly/

    May 16th, 2014 3:47 pm

  11. Michel

    This is how mike singletary euphoria started – whoops no experience. Matt millen as gm – lion fans were happy for one seaso

    May 16th, 2014 4:13 pm

  12. Dr. Feelgood

    Jackson had his redeeming virtues, but he was played out in Oakland. Anyone who wants to battle with management and get away with it had better contribute something GREAT. Fifty one wins is pretty good, but in the Western Conference, not so hot. He didn’t even make it into the second round, so in essence, the team did worse than last year.
    Kudos to the front office for not just hoping for the best, but for forward thinking and bold action.

    May 16th, 2014 4:17 pm

  13. chris

    great signing of Kerr by Lacob, but really the coach doesn’t mean that much these days…..look at Miami. Even San Antonio, without Duncan, Parker and Ginobli, Popovich would not have won as much. So Lacob needs to deal with his roster to take the next step towards a title. It means getting a better player than Lee, like Kevin Love, and also at the small forward and center positions.

    May 16th, 2014 5:26 pm

  14. Stan

    Yeah,and you are the same crowd who lauds Harbaugh for telling the media to jump in a lake..a polluted lake if possible.
    Again,the double standards..what Lacob gets when you fire somebody for winning.

    Also,the “wasn’t he black when they hired him?” There is a great chance that the ownership didn’t realize he was THAT black,when they hired him. Before he decided to throw in with Meyers and co.,MT2 wrote about the cultural differences. If your white- you could read between the lines. If you are of color..it was old news.
    I’ve lived,I’ve seen…the hypocrisy. “Winning is everything” . Jackson won.
    The fact that nobody in media will take a stand now…wait a full year to say “gee the Warriors never beat the Heat or Clippers this year,could it be the coach?”. I’m too old to wait. Kerr wont top 51 wins.
    Of course,if we get Love.or talent like that…

    May 17th, 2014 9:44 am

  15. Stan

    I see Jackson is being bashed because “He didn’t let Barnett in to practices”
    Well,at least he didn’t tell the media to stay 100 yards away.

    C’mon the Harbaugh- Jackson double standards couldn’t be more obvious.

    May 17th, 2014 11:03 am

  16. T. Jones

    In your column in the aftermath of the Warriors firing Mark Jackson, Lowell, you did everything but call Jackson an uppity n****er who didn’t know his place. You may not have intended for it to come across in that tone, but it did.
    You blindly bought into the Warriors’ front office narrative. Whenever an unpopular change is made, as it was in this case, those making the decisions are always going to shed the removed person (Jackson) in the most negative light possible.
    Did you even bother to get a viewpoint from a player? No. And the reason is probably because you do not have any sort of relationship with any of the players. So whatever the front office tells you is gospel to you.
    You follow along the same line in this column by continually trashing Jackson. You should read Marcus Thompson’s piece on Curry’s reaction to the firing. Curry said the Jackson he and the players dealt with every day was opposite of what the front office says and what you have been writing.
    Curry’s assessment of Jackson carries a lot more weight with fans than that of a scribe who won’t write anything negative about the Warriors’ ownership for fear of losing access to team hierarchy.
    Lowell, one thing is clear through and through, your knowledge of basketball, particularly the NBA, is extremely limited.

    May 17th, 2014 5:04 pm

  17. CohnZohn

    Troy, I appreciate your note but you know nothing of my motivations. I am the columnist in the Bay Area who is the most critical of ownership — any ownership, including the Warriors. You should read more thoroughly before you discuss topics you know little about.

    May 17th, 2014 9:37 pm

  18. Dennis

    I agree with Lowell, both on what he said and what he said about what he said. I don’t care what color you are, if you are going to freeze out upper management from THEIR team, you had better win championships. Winning 51 games won’t cut it. There are a whole bunch of coaches in this league who could win 51 games with this team and be more cooperative with management at the same time. No need to put up with it.

    May 18th, 2014 12:34 pm

  19. Stan

    If Lacob had fired a losing coach- I don’t need to know more. But Lowell,he fired a winner,and all Joe has done is let the media and fans infer this,insinuate that,about what was wrong. Joe Lacob hasn’t given a single shred of evidence to back up his supporters.
    “Jackson didn’t get along” Then tell us an example. Mark said 2 years ago,Riley had traded Lin without telling him. So who wasn’t telling who?
    We are going in another direction”..What? winning was the wrong direction?

    May 18th, 2014 6:15 pm

  20. Dave T

    Kerr did a lackluster job as GM in Phoenix. Perhaps he learned from it and will not make the same mistakes with the Warriors on the coaching side of the ball. Perhaps the ownership and front office brain trust have made a brilliant move and have some more up their sleeve with the new Kevin Love I want out of Minnesota and I like the Warriors fever now being played out in the media. Time will tell on all things in this now swirling pool on conjecture.

    My question is this: Over under for Warriors wins in 2014-15? And is that enough to make the playoffs?

    May 20th, 2014 12:54 pm

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