Steve Kerr

Kerr's 10-year Warriors tenure longer than he initially expected

NBC Universal, Inc.

Programming note: Watch Monte Poole's wide-ranging interview with Warriors coach Steve Kerr in the latest episode of "Dubs Talk," which will debut Wednesday at 11 p.m., after "Dubs Talk Live," on NBC Sports Bay Area.

SAN FRANCISCO – Even as he signed a five-year contract to coach the Golden State Warriors in 2014, Steve Kerr quietly prepared for the fate that awaits nearly every coach, no matter the sport.

But he wasn’t exactly sweating the possibility of dismissal.

“There was part of me that was thinking, 'All right, I’ll go five years and go back to San Diego and surf and play golf and that would be it,' ” Kerr recalled in a recent conversation with NBC Sports Bay Area. “And hopefully, I’ll make it five years. Maybe they’ll fire me before that. Who knows?”

Four championships and six NBA Finals appearances later, Kerr is fixture with the Warriors. Since he joined Golden State in 2014, scores of the coaches have been fired and only two – Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs and Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat – have longer tenures.

Kerr’s coaching career turns 10 years old this season. His 473-238 record gives him the highest winning percentage (665.) of any active coach with more than one season. On his watch, the Warriors have advanced from delightful upstarts to cultural icons and global VIPs.

It took a while for Kerr, who was a TNT analyst before coming to the Warriors, to fully digest his role in the franchise’s meteoric rise. He did not see it coming.

Kerr had spent three seasons (2007-10) as the general manager of the Phoenix Suns and realized he had a better aptitude for coaching. He began planning for the possibility, developing an overall philosophy and designing an offense.

Though Kerr made a point of coaching Golden State’s Las Vegas Summer League team in 2014, there was some unease in the first couple days of his first training camp. He suddenly felt oddly unprepared.

“There was a little bit of imposter syndrome going on,” Kerr concedes now, acknowledging that the first couple days were more chaotic than he had imagined.

Kerr’s nerves were calmed by assistant coach and longtime friend Bruce Fraser, who reminded him that he inherited a talented roster and to trust it. Then, too, Kerr had made two calculated hires to aid him in this new venture, bringing in veterans Ron Adams to coordinate the defense and Alvin Gentry to run the offense.

“Those guys were great,” Kerr says. “They helped my transition so much. They gave me a lot of great advice but still encouraged me to find my voice and get my messages across.”

The 2014 preseason opener was against the Clippers. Los Angeles was four months removed from ousting Golden State, then under coach Mark Jackson, in a searing seven-game, first-round NBA playoff series. The Warriors – behind Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green – coasted to a 112-94 victory and finished with a 6-2 preseason record.

“It’s not as chaotic as I thought,” Kerr recalls thinking. “The main thing was the guys were already really good. We were just trying to install a new offensive system, but defensively they were already amazing. The team was teed up to win. Mark had done a phenomenal job the previous few years putting the foundation in defensively.”

The Warriors won their first five regular-season games, lost the next two and then went on a 16-game win streak. Kerr finished second behind Atlanta’s Mike Budenholzer in the NBA Coach of the Year voting, but the Warriors had the MVP in Curry.

Their 67-15 record was tops in the league and the best in franchise history. Winning the 2015 NBA Finals, giving the Warriors their first title in 40 years, felt like destiny.

For an encore, the 2015-16 Warriors rampaged to a 73-9 record – the best in NBA history – before losing a seven-game Finals to the LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and the Cavaliers.

“We were really good – and then we added Kevin Durant and got even better,” Kerr says, recalling the first seismic free-agent acquisition in franchise history. “The sweet spot that this organization was in timed up perfectly with my arrival. These guys are so talented and so powerful – Steph, Klay, Draymond, Andre – that it just paved the way for me to have a long tenure here.”

RELATED: Curry uses perfect anecdote to summarize Kerr as Warriors coach

That first season set both a standard and a tone that still exists. Then as now, Warriors at their best represent dynamic offense, intelligent defense and a lively disposition.

The only head coaches in the NBA’s post-merger era (beginning 1976-77) with more championship jewelry are Pat Riley, Phil Jackson and Popovich. All three are enshrined in the Naismith Hall of Fame.

Kerr, 58, enters Season 10 with a coaching resumé worthy of the Naismith Hall of Fame. Not bad for a guy who came to the Warriors with a post-firing plan.

Download and follow the Dubs Talk Podcast

Contact Us