Silver Into Gold
The day was May 14, 2014.
That’s when word came down that much sought after NBA coaching prospect Steve Kerr, the former University of Arizona All-American under Lute Olson, member of the last US national team to take a title as amateurs (Spain ‘86), NBA champion (Bulls / Spurs), Phoenix Suns executive but drillmaster novice had opted to sign with Golden State for his first teaching gig, spurning serious overtures from the New York Knicks, their president, Kerr’s former coach in Chicago Phil Jackson and the enigma that is Carmelo Anthony. The deal: $5 million buckaroos over five (5) years.
Five over five (5/5): In fractions that works into one. One, as in, Kerr and GSW have become America’s #1 sport sensation since he took hold of Warriors reins, a 2-year journey of joy & accolades for Bay area basketball faithful and one that has appeared, surprisingly, easy going.
And it’s been due largely to head coach, Steve Kerr.
‘Au contraire, Monsieur, that is absurd, Curry, Thompson, Green, they are magnifique!’ That they are, Pierre, that they are.
Consider this: The year before Steve hit Oakland, Wars’ roster was near carbon-copy of the present, at least in key cogs Curry, Thompson, Green, Bogut, Iguodala & Barnes, one set by capable coach Mark Jackson who’d turned a 23-43 club (‘11-12)) into contenders lickety-split (51-31 (‘13-14)) but fumbled in the playoffs, bowing out 3-4 to the Clippers in Rd-1.
The magic touch Kerr displayed upon arriving at Oracle conjures images of Magic Johnson in his newly fitted ‘79-80 Lakers uniform who took title right outta’ the gate, and then Steve’s former boss and possible coaching template in Jackson who himself replaced a winning coach in Doug Collins (‘86-89). That was a Michael Jordan-led team in similar progression upward that were Eastern Conference finalists in ‘89 but seemed to be missing a championship ingredient. That’s the theory put forth, anyway.
The change in Chicagoland did produce big results with six (6) NBA titles in Jackson’s nine seasons in the Windy City, though, two seasons in mid-tenure when Mike went on a sabbatical (‘93-95) saw the zen-fullness vanish as Bulls got bounced in the semi-finals of each playoff run.
Steve does alot of things well but won’t spin straw to gold.
Steve Curry and his teammates, like those Jordan Bulls, are special talents. Just as important as super skill-set is what all champions possess mentality in ability to translate the Xs & Os of a new coach philosophy and implementing captains in command into winning, in stretches and the clutch.
Bottom-line: Great coaches need great players who can lead, and vice-versa.
It’s the vice-versa that will get the short-shrift as reflections on the past focus almost entirely upon the great athleticism of the students at expense of a dedicated and innovative teacher.
And it must be noted, great coaches need top staff who appreciate the plan and convey it in discernable terms. The names include Ron Adams, Bruce Fraser, Alvin Gentry (2015 (NO)), Jarron Collins, Keke Lyles (2015), Lachlan Penfold (trainer) and recently contracted-to-be Lakers head coach Luke Walton who served as interim to start this 2015-16 campaign while Kerr recuperated from back surgery, getting GSW off to a record unbeaten streak.
That date also marks the moment when fortunes of the NBA took a turn skyward, like it hitched a ride on a NASA booster rocket.
Yes, Mr. James has been good for the game and its business end, whether based in the Forest City, Salsa City or back home to Cleveland. LeBron, with his present crew in Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving et al, or past partners in Pat Riley, Dwyane Wade et al, wins many games, personal hardware (MVPs), Conference and Association titles and conducts himself with a corporate cool kinda’ professionalism.
What Kerr & Co. have injected into the NBA’s…I wouldn’t call it a corpse exactly, but into its body of generally uninspired work where flopping, mopping (the floor with poor competition) and dropping (3s at expense of the physical game) is all too common, these Warriors have been a B12 booster shot of verve & vigor.
But if you think the man with the terrific résumé and Jack Armstrong aura has always had everything served sunny-side up, think again.
Born in Beirut, Lebanon in 1965, Steve’s father Malcolm was assassinated by Islamic terrorists in 1984 when employed as president of American University.
Enrolled in Tucson at the time and playing on Olson’s nationally-ranked Wildcats’ squads, the tragedy that must’ve shaken his world to its foundation seemed to become a source of inspiration to the underclassman who held his public emotions in check and has since taken on all challenges presented, career and family, with a focused resolve for success.
So what lay ahead for Kerr and his Warriors team who are at this posting up on the Cavaliers 2-zip in their best of seven NBA.F16 series, looking to win back-to-back titles and don that dynasty regalia?
In the immediacy it’s too early to count out Cleveland who head home to host Wednesday nite’s action (6.8) at the QLA. But with Cavs’ big man Kevin Love suffering a head bang in 3Q of Sunday’s action on a Harrison Barnes up-the-back rebound rush prompting C-protocol, prospects appear dimmer by the day for chances of that first elusive NBA title in the Forest City.
Warriors current title run has ‘em sittin’ pretty but series just prior they looked ugly ducks, down 1-3 vs rival OKC in Western final, has this writer thinking back to those resilient Red Sox in 2004. Down 3-zip to nemesis New York, Beaneaters got cookin’ to win the series and ride momentum in sweep over St. Louis.
In the longer view, if the Wars do hoist their 2d consecutive O’Brien, what then might be the final culmination of this masterpiece in basketball that owners Joe Lacob, Peter Guber and GM Bob Myers built, Steve Kerr & staff direct and Steve Curry & friends are implementing to near perfection these past two years?
I’ve written it before, I’m no fan of the 3-pt shot that Golden State has made a staple in their routine and works to drain the game of its natural physicality and inherent symmetry that kept balance between inside and outside games.
But until another high caliber club can move Wars off their high-post pedestal, and apparently the Cavs, though stocked with talent, are not that team, I will show respect to the champs and find favor where I can.
Can GSW duplicate the Jordan-led Bulls super feat of the 90s, 6 titles in 8 years, a run most today hold out as template for NBA greatness?
Health or durability along with roster retention are always big hurdles the Sporting Gods place as obstacles on the champions track but nothing on the current Assc’n landscape in team nor player talent stands to say ‘no’ to the possibility, as long-shot as it appears.
Think of it: Jackson’s former player in Kerr managing an enterprise that looks to equal his own marvelous mark, a winning venture begun after Steve nixed an invite to the Big Apple from his former mentor? The Gods do love irony.
Biggest question: Will Steve Kerr get what’s due, his share of credit and just reward from fans & press for saving Adam Silver’s bacon and pulling NBA’s fat outta’ the flopalupagus fire? That’s highly doubtful.
Lacob & Gruber will give the man a raise or two but nowhere near what even your lowest paid Warriors’ starter gets in gold ($10M?). ‘Players play, coaches coach’ will be the standard spiel in denial. But Steve, his family, his friends, most of his players and basketball aficionados will know the score and that’s enough in anyone‘s book, plus the $8.5M per soon to come.
Photo credit: S.Kerr, wc.cca, 4.15.13, Thomson200; Kerr, wc, K.Allison, 2.24.15; Jordan-Jackson, wc, S.Liposky, 1997; L.James, wc, 4.27.8, K.Allison; Kerr-referee, wc, 2.34.15, K.Allison; S.Curry, wc, 3.2.11, K.Allison; Straight-Shooter, produce-label.
Posted: 6.7.16 @ 1:04pm EST; Copyright © 2016
Filed under: NBA
Tagged with: 2004 Boston Red Sox, 3-point shot, adam silver, basketball, Bob Myers, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, coaches, coaching, Disney-ESPN, Doug Collins, golden state warriors, Joe Lacob, Kevin Love, Klay Thompson, LeBron James, Luke Walton, Michael Jordan, NBA Finals 2016, New York Knickerbockers, O'Brien trophy, Peter Guber, Phil Jackson, resilient, saving bacon, sport dynasty regalia, Sporting Gods, Stephen Curry, Steve Kerr, University of Arizona Wildcats basketball