20 years after completing a three-peat as a player, Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr will attempt to wrap one up as a coach.
Since arriving in the Bay Area in 2014, Kerr has reached the NBA Finals every season with Golden State. The Warriors let then-head coach Mark Jackson go after back-to-back playoff appearances and turned to the broadcast booth — again — to nab a former player in Kerr.
Although he had no experience as a head coach, Kerr had won championships as a player under legendary coaches like Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich and also possessed front office experience from his time with the Phoenix Suns. Jackson, then the president of the Knicks, was also targeting Kerr to be New York’s next head coach, but Kerr eventually chose the Warriors.
“Ultimately, it was agonizing to say no to Phil because of what I think of him and what he’s done for my career,” Kerr said to NBA.com at the time. “I told Phil, ‘I think I have to pursue this other opportunity.’ He gave me his blessing. He said go look at it, and do what was in my heart.”
The Warriors were also taking a risk in hiring Kerr, but they felt he was the right man to take the team to the next level.
“We’re taking a little bit of a risk on his coaching ability, but we did that with Mark and it worked,” Warriors owner Joe Lacob said at the time. “So it’s just about finding the right fit for the organization and a guy who has extremely high potential, is a hard worker and is very prepared. That’s what we have got.”
Kerr went 265-63 in his first four seasons and has three championships, but now he has the chance to complete another three-peat 20 years after he did it as a player for the Chicago Bulls.
“It doesn’t seem like 20 years. Time flies for sure,” Kerr told Stadium when asked about the 1998 championship. “The cliché is ‘time flies when you’re having fun,’ and that’s actually been true for me.” And despite two decades passing by, Kerr said he still relives those feelings whenever he returns to Chicago.
“I still have amazing memories walking back into the United Center,” Kerr said. “I love looking up at those banners. These were amazing years for my family and me.”
The Warriors entered the season as the favorites to capture a third straight title, but only the Boston Celtics, LA Lakers and Bulls have accomplished the feat in NBA history. No team has made five consecutive NBA Finals appearances since Boston’s run in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Even though Kerr has first-hand experience going for the three-peat as a player, he won’t dwell on that with this Golden State team.
“I think we were in this situation a year ago in terms of trying to get back to the finals multiple times, and I used some of that experience last year,” Kerr said. “This year, I’m trying not to focus on anything from the past. I’m just trying to help these guys enjoy every moment of what’s happening now.”
With Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins hitting free agency in the upcoming summer, the Warriors could see massive changes if those players decide to leave. Golden State also has to think about extending Draymond Green’s contract.
While Kerr isn’t focused on the future, he understands the business aspect of the league. This Warriors team won’t last forever, which is why their head coach is concentrating on the task at hand this year.
“Life goes by fast, so you got to enjoy every minute and that’s what this year is about – enjoying our time together, hoping that it continues,” Kerr said.
“Hopefully it will.”