Steve Kerr is new to coaching, but he isn’t new to winning. This meme that made the rounds this spring just about sums his please-don’t-wake-me-up-from-this-dream career.
The former journeyman sharpshooter collected an array of accomplishments — an AP Second Team All-America nod at Arizona, a FIBA World Championship in 1986, five NBA championships, 15 years of an NBA salary — that bought him options. Kerr could have spent the next two decades as TNT’s lead NBA analyst. He could have spent a career as an NBA general manager. But Kerr had an itch that only coaching can scratch.
“My parents were teachers, and so I never was that into school, but coaching is teaching. I guess that it’s probably in my blood to teach and to want to be part of a group because that’s what a classroom is,” Kerr said in a recent interview with ESPN. “You’re part of a group of people, and you inspire each other, and you learn from your students just like they learn from you. In the best classrooms, everybody’s sharing ideas, and you’re all sort of thinking new thoughts. That’s what I enjoy about the team: working with the players. That’s one of the reasons I think it’s important to include them in decisions and to listen to them. They’re the ones doing stuff, they’re all smart, and they all have great ideas. When we hash stuff out, a game plan, a play, and a player makes a suggestion, and another player makes another suggestion, and we work it all out, and we finally find it? That’s really gratifying.”
Kerr used his options to wait, and wait, and wait for the right job. After leaving his job as the Phoenix Suns’ general manager in 2010, Kerr waited until 2014 to take the right job — and, boy, was it ever the right job. Two seasons later, Kerr holds a 140-24 regular season record and 25-8 mark in the playoffs, seven wins shy of his second championship in as many tries.
Though the method is different, Kerr shared something that unites all coaches and teachers. No matter the salary (though 99.9% of coaches would gladly trade theirs for Kerr’s), the sport or the level, the drug of coaching hits all who try it in the exact same way: when players combine their practice and instruction to make something beautiful happen on the field of play.
“When we get a possession where the ball moves seven times, and it’s not even a play, but it moves seven times, and one makes a backdoor cut that the defense responds to, then on the other side, because the defense has rotated to cover that backdoor cut, somebody pins down, and Klay pops up and gets an open shot,” he said. “It’s like, ‘Oh, my god!’ It’s like the heavens opening up, like this is what it’s all about. That’s when it’s awesome as a staff, to see all that stuff that you’re trying to implement and trying to get across, when it comes to fruition. It’s a great feeling.”