Warriors Hire Former Player, TV Analyst and Coaching Rookie, Steve Kerr

Broadcaster and former NBA player Steve Kerr works the game between the Chicago Bulls and the Washington Wizards in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs, April 29, 2014 in Chicago. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Broadcaster and former NBA player Steve Kerr works Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Your Golden State Warriors have a new head coach. Yesterday, reports surfaced that the team was hiring Steve Kerr — a decorated player and current TV analyst with no coaching experience. As USA Today’s Sam Amick points out, that all sounds surprisingly similar to recently ousted Mark Jackson, who was fired last week.

Kerr’s coaching résumé looks exactly the same as Jackson’s did when Warriors owner Joe Lacob gave him his first chance back in 2011. And that is why, as Lacob sees it, this all makes perfect sense in the weirdest of ways.

“Look, we did pretty well with Mark Jackson,” Lacob told USA TODAY Sports by phone, his statement thick with irony but strangely logical. “In the end, it wasn’t working out, which only we can probably totally appreciate on the inside.”

That not-so-veiled jab is in reference to the apparent rift between Jackson and team management that eventually led to his firing. Speaking to USA Today, Lacob added:

“I get that (people) see the win total, and they think that’s all that matters. But we have an organization that’s 200 people, and everyone has to get along and work together and that’s just the way it worked out. … We went out and we wanted to find the best guy to lead this team to the next level.”

Kerr’s agreeable personality was a major selling point to Warriors management as they prepare to move into their Mission Bay home in 2018. He agreed to a five-year deal worth $25 million, making him one of the highest-paid coaches in the NBA.

A 15-year NBA veteran, Kerr made his mark as a sharpshooting role player for the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls, winning three NBA championships with the team before moving to the San Antonio Spurs, where he won another two titles before retiring after the 2002-2003 season. He then moved to the front office, serving as general manager of the Phoenix Suns for three seasons from 2007-2010.

The move elicited words like “Stunner,” “Shocker” and “Spurned.” The latter referred to the New York Knicks’s attempts to lure Kerr, whose longtime coach, Phil Jackson, has taken over the reins. The deal was thought to be a foregone conclusion, until the Warriors swooped in.

NBA.com’s David Aldridge, who broke the story on Twitter Wednesday, had this to say about Kerr’s decision to spurn the Knicks and his former coach:

Kerr, 48, was Jackson’s first and only choice to replace Mike Woodson, and for the last couple of weeks, everything pointed toward Kerr joining Jackson, now the Knicks’ president of basketball operations, in New York. But Kerr was overwhelmed by the Warriors’ talent base, their west coast address and a last-minute pilgrimage the team’s brain trust made to Oklahoma City on Monday to change his mind. “It just felt like the right move on many levels,” Kerr said by phone Wednesday. “They have a good young team. The location is ideal. My daughter goes to Cal and plays volleyball. My oldest son is in college in San Diego and our youngest is a junior in high school. It’s just a short flight for them.”

“Ultimately, it was agonizing to say no to Phil because of what I think of him and what he’s done for my career,” said Kerr, who won three titles playing for Jackson in Chicago with the Bulls. “When Phil Jackson asks you to coach the Knicks, how do you say no? I think they’re going to turn it around, but going to be a big undertaking and it’s going to take time. The idea of doing that 3,000 miles from home, it just didn’t feel right…I told Phil, ‘I think I have to pursue this other opportunity,’ Kerr said. “He gave me his blessing. He said go look at it, and do what was in my heart.”

The Warriors posted a cut-up of several interviews of Kerr talking about the team over the last few years, as well as comment from star guard Stephen Curry calling Kerr one of the best shooters of all time. The opportunity to coach a talented young team was clearly appealing to Kerr.

What do you think, Warriors fans? Happy about the move? Worried about Kerr’s lack of coaching experience? Still upset that Mark Jackson is gone?

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Adam Grossberg

Adam Grossberg is a web video producer at KQED News. Reach him @adamgrossberg or agrossberg@kqed.org.

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