Exclusive: Steve Kerr: 'I have big shoes to fill'

Exclusive: Steve Kerr: 'I have big shoes to fill'
May 16, 2014, 2:15 pm
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I'm aware there are going to be expectations. That comes with the territory.
Steve Kerr


Steve Kerr is inheriting one of the NBA's best young superstars in Steph Curry. (USATSI)

Steve Kerr walks into his new job as Warriors coach with his eyes open and his mind clear. He knows and accepts that the CEO is an insane competitor. He knows and accepts that he cannot avoid miserable nights.

Kerr also knows and accepts that he is replacing a coach, Mark Jackson, who achieved consecutive playoff seasons and, moreover, had a deep spiritual bond with most of the roster.

"I know I have big shoes to fill," Kerr said Friday, speaking from his San Diego home. "Mark was very successful there and has done a great job with the players. They all appreciated him.

"But I look at that as a positive because I'm inheriting a good team. I'd rather inherit a good team with expectations than a bad team with a low bar. It's not even close. So I'm aware there are going to be expectations. That comes with the territory. I would challenge anybody to find a job in the NBA that isn't rife with challenges. They're all just a little different."

[RELATED: Kerr faces tough task with Warriors]

Understanding the connection Jackson had with his players, Kerr made it a priority to reach out to the men he'll be coaching when training camp opens in September.

He's still trying to reach center Andrew Bogut, who is in Australia, but has made considerable progress elsewhere.

"I've talked to almost every single player,'' Kerr said "I've spoken with Steph (Curry) and Harrison (Barnes) and Draymond (Green) and David (Lee) and Steve Blake, on down the line. I spoke with Ognjen (Kuzmic) yesterday. They've all been so welcoming. It couldn't have been any better in terms of their reaction to me over the phone."

Kerr still is preparing for the upcoming Western Conference finals, during which he will complete his assignment as a TV analyst for TNT. Game 1 is in San Antonio on Monday, after which Kerr will fly to the Bay Area and be officially introduced next Tuesday.

Asked if there was any trepidation at all to leaving the comfort of the TV booth for the stress that comes with coaching, Kerr conceded there was.

"No question," he said. "That's why a lot of people keep telling me, 'You're crazy to leave TV. You're still undefeated.' But you know what: I love the competition. I love the camaraderie of being part of a team -– not just on the court but also with the front office and ownership group."

Kerr cited his family and location are important factors for taking the job, but one senses he also was swayed by his familiarity with Warriors front office.

He has years-long relationships with team president and COO Rick Welts; the two worked together for three years in the front office of the Suns. Kerr has known general manager Bob Myers for several years, dating back to when Myers were a player agent. Kerr also has had a long acquaintance for CEO Joe Lacob.

That relationship might have been the clincher.

[RELATED: Roster, location main reasons why Kerr took Warriors' job]

That I already have a relationship with him is important," Kerr said. "I know him and I've seen what he's done with this franchise since he took over. It's been a remarkable, the transformation and the progress. It's exciting to think about what's ahead. To be part of all this is just an incredible opportunity and a great feeling."

Kerr, 48, said he will have final say over his staff, and that he has latitude to hire anyone he wants – with no financial limitations.

"One of the real attractions of this job," he said, "was (Lacob and Myers) telling me, 'You can hire anybody you want. Bring in the best staff you want. We're not going to spare any expense. We want the best of everything here.' What else could I ask for?"

And yet, Kerr acknowledged it was extremely difficult to walk away from negotiations with the Knicks, where his longtime mentor Phil Jackson has been installed atop the basketball operation.

But it was fairly easy to say yes to the Warriors -– and a thousand times yes to becoming a coach. Kerr is, after all, a former player who feels the urge to compete at the game he knows best.

Asked to cite his single greatest challenge, Kerr was quick to reply.

"It's probably my own competitiveness," he said. "I've been in the NBA for 26 years and I know it's a roller-coaster ride for everybody, whether you're (Spurs coach) Gregg Popovich or you're coaching your first game. There are a lot of ups and downs. I think I'll have a good handle on that. But until you're in that seat, you can't know how you're really going to feel."