Steve Kerr

Why Kerr's seat with Warriors stays cool even as others heat up

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The hot-seat season has commenced for NBA coaches, and Dub Nation surely enjoyed its opening night.

There was Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis, after LA’s loss to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night, grabbing the microphone and taking a transparent shot at head coach Darvin Ham.

"We have stretches where we just don't know what we're doing on both ends of the floor," Davis said, knowing how the comment would be interpreted.

Having endured multiple storms of criticism this season, Ham fired back on Wednesday, saying he’ll “agree to disagree on that one.”

When unrest hits the Lakers, Warriors fans reach for the popcorn and find a comfortable seat – not only for the squabbling down south but because of the relative serenity in the Bay Area.

Not once this season – or any other season – has one of Golden State’s core veterans ever hinted at disapproval of coach Steve Kerr. The history of the NBA tells us that grumbling vets are the surest sign of discontent.

Stephen Curry has not gone there because it’s not his nature to hydrate seeds of controversy and, also, he genuinely believes Kerr is the right coach. Klay Thompson, even in his darkest moments, has not chipped at Kerr out of respect for all that has been accomplished under the coach.

What about Draymond Green, you say? He is, after all, the Warrior most likely to step toward friction. While wrestling with his personal crises as the Warriors wobbled through a season of unwelcome wrinkles, there was ample opportunity for him to lash out against Kerr.

Nope. To the contrary, Green continues his staunch support of Kerr.

A vocal segment of fans spent the season blasting away at Kerr. Outside observers, including media, questioned some of Kerr’s decisions. There were times when Warriors CEO Joe Lacob, sitting courtside, simply could not conceal his displeasure with the product he was seeing.

And yet, Lacob, whose ears are open to the vets, presented Kerr with a lucrative two-year contract extension in February.

“That’s a lot of money,” Green said at the time. “I think it’s incredible. I wouldn’t want to finish my time here with any other coach. What he’s meant to this franchise, what he’s done for us as players, the ways he brought here, you can’t replace that.

“I’m very happy for Steve and his family. He got what he deserved.”

Golden State reached the NBA Finals in each of Kerr’s first five seasons, three of which ended with a championship. The last successful season was punctuated by an Finals victory in 2022.

The last five seasons have, frankly, been much more of slog than a jaunt. The Warriors missed the NBA playoffs three times, two of which were reasonably understandable. The third, this season, was in many ways the toughest of all for Kerr and for the team.

Yes, tougher even than the 2018-19 NBA season, which faced evident headwinds after a very public quarrel between Kevin Durant and Green punctured the team’s fabled chemistry.

The Warriors on too many occasions this season spun victory into defeat. They too often broke down in the fourth quarter. Draymond’s temper spikes derailed chances for momentum. Worst of all was the sudden and tragic death of assistant coach Dejan ‘Deki’ Milojević.

Kerr rightfully criticized his work several times this season. That ought to be worth something. He has two more years not to prove his worth but to squeeze every possible drop from the vets while preparing the next phase.

The closest Kerr has come to being on the blunt end of a public gripe was late in the 2018-19 season. After the Warriors were blown out of Oracle Arena by the Boston Celtics, Kerr urged more passion, anger and intensity.

When this was relayed to Durant, he seemed perplexed.

“I thought we moved off joy,” he said without emotion. “Now anger? I disagree with that.”

Durant later told me his response was not intended as a swipe at Kerr, adding that everybody needed to be better. He left the Warriors four months later, not because of a rift with Kerr but to play with his good friend Kyrie Irving. 

And now Durant’s coach in Phoenix, Frank Vogel, who fired by the Lakers in 2022 after winning a championship in 2020, again is under fire. It’s widely believed he’ll be dumped if the Suns are bounced in the first round.

There are whispers about Joe Mazzulla in Boston, about Billy Donovan in Chicago, about Monty Williams in Detroit. Even about Los Angeles Clippers coach Tyronn Lue.

Though it’s generally believed that Milwaukee Bucks coach Doc Rivers will return, largely because of his contract, his midseason hire came after a veteran griped. Giannis Antetokounmpo quickly grew disenchanted with first-year coach Adrian Griffin, who lasted only three months.

Ham’s fate with the Lakers largely rests on the opinions of be Davis and, of course, LeBron James. The same vets that won it all under Vogel in LA. 

Kerr’s fate with the Warriors, likewise, is tied most of all to Curry. There’s security in that, as Steph isn’t one to indulge in public finger-pointing or even unspoken disapproval. He’s too focused on searching for solutions behind the scenes.

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