Restarting the Clock: Episode 11: Steve Kerr

Andy and Head Coach Steve Kerr chat about the state of the NBA including how players are standing up for racial justice and adapting to the bubble. Kerr offers a unique perspective as a former NBA player, broadcaster, executive and current head coach of the Golden State Warriors. 

Even though the Warriors weren’t invited to Orlando, Kerr says the Warriors will hold a mini camp for his team later this month in San Francisco and he’s closely following the end of the 2020 season in the bubble.

“I’m really blown away by the amount of work that the League has put into it, the detail the dedication from all parties involved. It’s so nice to turn on games and to see how competitive they are, how compelling they are. The league has done a really good job of creating an atmosphere for the viewer at home with the virtual fans and the sounds,” Kerr said. “I wonder what it’s like, as a player. When you’re in a playoff game in front of 20,000 fans, either at home or on the road, there’s just so much pressure. I wonder if there’s a different level of pressure.”

Kerr is no stranger to the spotlight. As a player he made 11 playoffs and is one of only 26 players in NBA history to win five championships (three with Chicago and two with San Antonio). Kerr was a late recruit picked up by University of Arizona Coach Lute Olsen in 1983 and was a second round pick of the Phoenix Suns in the 1988 NBA Draft. As a player Kerr played under legendary coaches including; Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich, Lenny Wilkens, and Cotton Fitzsimmons. 

“I think that’s the important thing is to find your own style and be yourself…I took something from all of the guys, the two biggest influences on my NBA coaching are Pop and Phil Jackson,” Kerr said. “I think a lot of it’s on the court, some of the drill work that we use is the same stuff that I did in Chicago and San Antonio. A lot of it is really communicating with players, the ability to create a really strong vibe and culture and atmosphere that the players are able to enjoy and thrive and that’s the whole goal.”

Kerr played 15 seasons in the NBA and the league’s all-time three-point percentage leader, having converted on 45.4 percent (726-of-1599) of his attempts from long range,

“I was luckier than most because I was able to play until I couldn’t play anymore. At 37 I knew I couldn’t do it anymore. I’ve had a great 15 year run on these fantastic teams, I’ve been able to play with some of the great players of all time, and win championships with these guys. It was just something I never even dreamed about. So when it ended, there was a great sense of satisfaction,” Kerr said.

Kerr acknowledges that many athletes have a difficult time transitioning from a fulltime playing schedule to life after basketball. 

“Phil Jackson used to say that when an athlete retires, it’s like a death and you actually have to mourn the loss of that piece of you. I think that’s really an appropriate metaphor because in many ways, if you’re an athlete It defines your daily routine, your daily ritual for decades. And all of a sudden it’s gone. It is like it’s just died,” Kerr said.

After his days on the court, Kerr jumped into broadcasting alongside Marv Albert as a game analyst on TNT’s award-winning NBA coverage. Kerr says the transition from player to broadcaster allowed him to maintain his NBA relationships and “keep his foot in the door.”

“I got right into broadcasting, which helped, it kept me in the league, it kept my relationships going, just seeing people you’re running into…that’s the thing you realize you miss, if you’re not part of it, all these faces and names and people who you’re so used to, just saying hello and chatting with all of a sudden it’s gone,” Kerr said. 

Kerr is also known for his record-breaking first season as head coach of the Warriors in 2014-15. The season ended with the Warriors winning the fourth NBA Championship in team history and their first ring in 40 years.

“We were really lucky because we have Steph Curry who loves to play so much and it’s really infectious. I think it’s important just because it’s easy to get wrapped up in the business,” Kerr said. “Playing in the NBA is absolutely a dream job. It’s not easy all the time. You get booed, cut, you get injured, you get traded. There’s a lot of things that are pretty tough to deal with. Remembering what got us onto the basketball court in the first place when we were, seven, eight years old…That’s really important. That feeling inside is what’s real.”

As a coach, Kerr is aware of the impact of mental health on players’ performance and the importance of giving players access to quality mental health support through team psychologists and mindfulness coaches.

“There are really difficult issues. And it’s important that we address them in the NBA. You want to provide your players a comfort level of knowing, there’s someone they can talk with that will not affect anything about their job. I think that’s a really good resource. But it’s also disconnected from the team in many ways,” Kerr said. “I think there’s a role beyond that. I think there is a role for someone who’s more invested in things that are directly related to your performance that you can figure out how to use on the court. And so it’s sort of a hybrid role where you might be a semi-coach, semi-team psychologist.”

In addition to championing the mental health of players, Kerr is committed to facing racial injustice and gun control and says he is taking time during the pandemic to read, learn and speak out about the history of racism in America. 

“I think it’s a matter of continuing to be hopeful and to be active and to and to continue to build allies with like-minded people who want this country to be strong,” Kerr said. We want our country to be morally sound so that we can all feel good about where we’re from and what we’re doing and what we’re trying to accomplish because that’s what’s really going to generate a really healthy, strong environment for everybody.”

Tune in for Kerr’s thoughts on “The Last Dance” and more. Listen to the full Legends Of Sport podcast here. Watch the video of the podcast on the @legendsofsport YouTube channel.

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