Monte Poole

Mike Brown has one job to do as acting head coach of the Warriors

Mike Brown has one job to do as acting head coach of the Warriors

Programming note: Warriors-Blazers Game 4 coverage starts tonight at 6:30pm with Warriors Pregame Live on NBC Sports Bay Area, and streaming live right here.

PORTLAND — Though this undoubtedly is a crisis for Steve Kerr, whose body is putting up such angry protest that he is pulling out of playoff games, it’s no emergency for the Warriors.

No matter what you think of Mike Brown as a basketball coach, and opinions do vary, his ascension to acting head coach in Kerr’s absence does not sink the championship aspirations of the team.

What it does, more than anything, is create leadership opportunities for such accomplished veterans as Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala.

[POOLE: This is cruel: Steve Kerr imprisoned by misery that has engulfed his body]

What it also does is provide a deeper glimpse into one of the most democratic coaching operations in sports.

“The way things work here, it’s pretty unusual,” Brown told “Everybody is involved. Everybody -- coaches, players, staff, anybody with an idea -- has a voice. Steve has created an environment where everyone is comfortable speaking up about anything.”

Not only is everyone comfortable, but Kerr also encourages participation in the process. Whether it’s a veteran coach like Ron Adams, a staffer like Nick U’Ren, an analyst like Sammy Gelfand or a video intern like Khalid Robinson, the floor is always open to ideas and comments.

No one is ignored, and that’s not the case with every coach in any sport.

The Warriors understand they operate in a special space, which is part of the reason they’ve spent three years thriving at such an incredible pace. And that doesn’t change because Brown is the guy standing up to call timeouts.

Consider a scene from Game 3 Saturday night. With the Warriors down eight in the final minute of the first quarter, Green picked up his second foul. That typically calls for a substation. And Brown was ready to insert Klay Thompson, but then caught sight of Green saying he would be fine.

Thompson returned to his seat, Green finished the quarter -- and was on the court again to open the second quarter.

“That just goes to show the trust that our coaching staff has in us,” Green said. “There are so many times you see guys wave a coach off . . . and they’ll still take them out. But that’s the trust our coaching staff has in us. And I know if I wave to stay in, I can’t pick up that third foul. It’s a two-way street. They have the trust in us to allow us to stay in in a situation like that, and we’ve got to make sure that we don’t mess them over and pick up that third foul, and then we’re out for the rest of the half.

“So I think it was great by him and the rest of the coaching staff to have that trust. It’s on us to hold up our end of the bargain and not get that third foul.”

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Green, by the way, didn’t pick up his third foul until the fourth quarter. That was long after he played such ridiculously good third-quarter defense -- 0 points while posting a plus-12 over 12 minutes -- that the Warriors wiped out a double-digit deficit.

Brown has learned to trust the player, just as Kerr trusts his players. It’s standard operation for this bunch, and Brown, a three-time NBA head coach, has seen enough not to deviate.

“The group, as a whole, understands what he wants,” Brown said of Kerr. “It makes it easy for a guy like me to just be a part.”

This is Kerr’s team, and Brown knows it. Brown wasn’t hired to coach the Warriors, and nobody understands this better than he. He wasn’t asked to come in and lay groundwork, to put his stamp on the roster or the playbook or video presentation or determine franchise direction.

His job, for as long as he is acting head coach, is to maintain status quo. And, maybe, if circumstances call for it, consider a wrinkle every now and then, as he would if he were standing next to Kerr.

Keep in mind that Kerr, who attended morning shootaround ahead of Game 4 Monday night, is not walking away. Though he does not plan to be on the bench for a while, he’ll continue to prepare and get into the ears of players and staff.

So this is not a crisis for the Warriors. Though they’d like to get Kerr back as soon as possible, they also believe the system he has built has tremendous self-sustaining qualities.

Brown has been around the game, seen enough organizations, to know this is about as good as it gets.

NBA Gameday: Durant remains questionable for Game 4

NBA Gameday: Durant remains questionable for Game 4

Programming note: Warriors-Blazers Game 4 coverage starts tonight at 6:30pm with Warriors Pregame Live on NBC Sports Bay Area, and streaming live right here.

PORTLAND -- The Warriors are one victory away from advancing to the second round of the playoffs.

After snapping a five-game losing streak in Game 3s behind acting head coach Mike Brown on Saturday, the Warriors will go after a first-round sweep Monday night, when they face the Trail Blazers in Game 4 at Monday night at Moda Center.

The Warriors have won the first three games by an average of 15.7 points.

Facing what some players referred to as a must-win situation in Game 3, Portland took the inspirational approach, turning to center Jusuf Nurkic, who missed Games 1 and 2 with a fractured leg. He played 17 mostly ineffective minutes and already has been ruled out of Game 4.


Warriors by 7.5


Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson vs. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum: Any chance they Blazers have of fighting off a sweep lies with Lillard and McCollum. It has become evident through the first three games that they can’t just be good. They have to be vastly superior to Curry and Thompson. That’s an exceedingly tall order considering the Warriors are aiming to close out the series.


Warriors: F Matt Barnes (R foot/ankle bone bruise), F Kevin Durant (L calf strain) and G Shaun Livingston (R index finger sprain and hand contusion) are listed as questionable. F Kevon Looney (L hip strain) is listed as out.

Blazers: G Allen Crabbe (L foot soreness) and G CJ McCollum (R ankle sprain) are listed as probable. C Jusuf Nurkic (L leg fracture) C Ed Davis (L shoulder surgery), C Festus Ezeli (L knee surgery) and C Jusuf Nurkic (R leg fracture) are listed as out.


The Warriors own a 3-0 lead in the series and swept all four games in the regular season. Including the 2016 playoffs, they have won 13 of the last 14 games.


SPLASH TIME: Curry and Thompson have struggled with their shots for the majority of the series. Both warmed up in Game 3, Thompson in the third quarter and Curry in the fourth, examples of finding the range when it’s time to finish off an opponent. The Warriors would love to see 3-pointers splashing through the nets.

THE BENCHES: The Warriors, behind McGee, have won the bench scoring battle in each of the first three games by double digits. Portland’s most dangerous reserve, guard Allen Crabbe, has scored 15 points in three games. Unless he gets it going, there will be no Game 5.

JAVALE TIME: No non-star on either roster has made more of an impact than Warriors backup big man JaVale McGee. He’s shooting 84.2 percent (16-of-19) from the field and having his way inside. The Blazers have no answer for the 7-footer.

This is cruel: Steve Kerr imprisoned by misery that has engulfed his body

This is cruel: Steve Kerr imprisoned by misery that has engulfed his body

Programming note: Warriors-Blazers Game 4 coverage starts tonight at 6:30pm with Warriors Pregame Live on NBC Sports Bay Area, and streaming live right here.

PORTLAND -- Steve Kerr can’t golf. His body won’t allow it, hasn’t in two years. He has spent most of his life being able to golf, enjoying it immensely, and not being able to do so now saddens him deeply.

He can’t play basketball, either. Can’t even shoot free throws, not comfortably, and he spent half of his adult life playing the game at the highest levels.

Kerr, 51, can’t enjoy even the simplest things in life. Not now. So coaching an NBA team, the job he loves, a vocation that fulfills his lifelong need to compete, is out of the question.

Coaching the Warriors in the playoffs, in pursuit of a championship, is put on hold all because 21 months ago he made a reasonable, rational medical decision he may regret for the rest of his life.

Kerr opted for back surgery.

The after-effects have been devastating. He is imprisoned by misery that has engulfed his body. Kerr told earlier this season that he felt he had exhausted just about every possibility he is willing to trust, all in a quest for physical normalcy. He has researched hundreds of books in search of relief. He has talked to dozens of specialists. He has tried opioids and other medical treatments, herbal treatments, spiritual treatments and marijuana in a form he reluctantly revealed. And his reluctance, once revealed, was easily understood.

“I can tell you if you’re listening out there, if you have a back problem, stay away from surgery,” Kerr said Sunday in his first comments since Friday. “I can say that from the bottom of my heart. Rehab, rehab, rehab. Don’t let anybody get in there.”

The covers were pulled back on Kerr’s condition Saturday afternoon, when it was announced he would not coach Game 3 of the Warriors-Trail Blazers series. Now it was public, everybody knowing what those of us who work closely with him already knew. Much of what we’ve known, and some of what we’ve suspected, came tumbling into the open Sunday, when Kerr told the world that his condition, which had nagged at him ever since the summer of 2015, which he had suppressed with an admirable degree of success, finally had gotten best of him -- at least for now.

In private conversations this season with, Kerr has acknowledged his agony. He has admitted that he has never been more miserable and expressed his regret over having the first back surgery, which resulted in a spinal fluid leak, which led to a second surgery -- which has sent him plummeting down this path of torment.

Kerr lives with pain that most commonly might be associated with sinus headaches or, worse, migraines. Now that it has reached a level of utter despair, he no longer can even pretend to hide it. Gutting it out, a term often linked to competitive sport, was possible until this weekend.

“I was able to manage the pain and the discomfort over the last year and a half and, suddenly, things got a lot worse,” he said.

“I don’t know why. I’m trying to figure out why.”

This is cruel, and Steve Kerr knows cruelty. He has a great job, a great wife, a solid family -- yet none of this can completely eclipse the tragic death of his father. Dr. Malcolm Kerr was the president of the American University of Beirut when he was assassinated by a group of terrorists in January 1984.

Losing a father to senseless violence in a faraway place is not something a son gets over, not completely. Steve Kerr doesn’t often reference his father, but every time he does it is beneath a cloud of melancholy.

To have a great childhood, followed by unimaginable heartache while entering adulthood, leaves open the possibility for bitterness, maybe even the desire for vengeance. Not with Steve. He chose to continue living following the example set by his father, namely that the world is a place in need of healing.

It’s why anyone who knows Steve Kerr can only admire his principles and dedication. His innate goodness always shines through.

And now he has this great job, one in which he has more than earned his salary. He is a championship coach who always points to his players and his staff. He has a policy of openness that put everyone around him at ease.

And now this, such an unkind cut it seems profoundly unfair.

Kerr has so much that enriches him and can’t savor any of it. He wants nothing more than another Warriors championship and to be pain-free. At this stage, who could blame him if he yearned more for the latter than the former?