With just five exhibition games under his coaching belt, new Warriors head coach Steve Kerr was already fielding questions about the playoffs.
After the Warriors’ summer league finale earlier this month, Kerr was asked if the upcoming season would be considered a failure if he didn’t reach the second round:
“I don’t look at it that way, I honestly don’t, you come in every season and try to be the best team you can, the west is loaded, Phoenix won 49 games and didn’t get in, so somebody’s going to get left out, Dallas as the eight seed almost beat San Antonio in the first round.”
If the questions after a 2-3 Summer League performance are any indication, the rookie head coach is in for a tough season ahead.
Kerr was quick to point out how he would be measuring the season’s success:
“It’s too random to just define your season one way, the season is a success if we perform to our expectations in terms of what you see on the floor, defensive intensity our togetherness, our preparation, if we do all those things we feel like we’ll win a lot of games and be really good, but tough to just put a number quantifying everything.”
If Kerr was overwhelmed in his first real-time coaching experience, it didn’t show. Warriors guard Nemanja Nedovic told SFBay Kerr brought a calming demeanor to the bench:
“I think he just built a relationship like a friend to us, he’s really calm, he likes to explain things, he likes to explain little details.”
Though he may be a rookie, Kerr has built a staff with plenty of experience. With Alvin Gentry and Ron Adams at his side, Kerr has what is already one of the most respected staffs in the NBA.
Gentry gained notoriety for winning 54 games with the Phoenix Suns by running an offense similar to Mike D’Antoni’s and taking the heavily favored LA Lakers to six games in the Western conference finals.
He was also the second- best assistant coach in a survey taken last season, with 10.7 percent of NBA general managers calling him the best assistant coach in the NBA.
Ron Adams, the elder statesmen of Kerr’s staff, was with the Boston Celtics last year where he mentored rookie head coach Brad Stevens. The Warriors hope he can do the same with Kerr.
Adams has also been voted one of the best assistant coaches in the NBA by GMs in four of the last five years.
The veteran presence of Gentry and Adams will provide valuable insight to an otherwise inexperienced staff. Along with Kerr, assistants Luke Walton, Jarron Collins and Bruce Fraser are all first-time NBA coaches.
Walton said there was plenty of learning going on, even after just five summer league games:
“It is just like having veteran players on a basketball team, you know, they’ve been around, they know all the ins-and-outs of how this game works and how it all goes, they’re teaching us on the go as well and we are real lucky to have those two.”
The Warriors staff came together rather late in the off-season, after Kerr fulfilled his commentating obligations before really pursuing candidates. They also had to wait on the decision of now-Cleveland coach David Blatt.
Even with the late start, the staff has meshed well, said Walton:
“Incredibly well, we got some old veteran coaches, some new coaches, and in the two weeks we’ve been here, with the meetings we’ve had and the double day practices, our coaching staff has really come together and gelled nicely.”
Warriors coaches were even seen hitting the bars in Vegas together.
On the court, it is impossible to evaluate what Kerr’s coaching future will hold after a short five-game stint, but he has impressed his staff so far. Walton mentioned how much he grew in just a week:
“You can tell he’s already got a lot more comfortable from the first game to the last game of summer league, he sees the game in a special way, he’s able to make some great adjustments in timeouts and halftimes. I’ve seen in the short time we’ve been here the progress, how decisive he is when making a call or drawing up a play has just gotten better after each game.”