Kerr arrives in Golden State with 'Pop' plan

Kerr arrives in Golden State with 'Pop' plan
May 21, 2014, 7:45 am

Steve Kerr won three championships with Phil Jackson and the Bulls and two more with Gregg Popovich and the Spurs. (USATSI)

That's critical as a coach. You've got to be in charge, but you've got to care about your guys.
Steve Kerr

OAKLAND -- It's going to take some time to get past Steve Kerr's easy grin and the polished feel of the Warriors' remodeled ownership/management structure, which now feels a bit elitist, as if the blood that runs through it has changed from red to blue.

But if Kerr is true to his word, that grin is useful as a veneer to soothe the occasionally sharp words and fierce competiveness of the man behind it.

The most influential NBA coaches in Kerr's life have been Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich, the two men under whom Kerr won championships. Kerr owns three rings from his time with and Jackson and the Bulls, and two more from his years with Popovich and the Spurs.

Jackson and Popovich, however, are different personalities. Jackson is the mysterious philosopher who drops hints that light the way to his message. Popovich is the sensitive guy cloaked in sour grouch for whom hinting is a waste of time.

Kerr? He's not into dropping hints.

"I'm more like Pop," Kerr says. "Pop's very straightforward. (Jackson and Popovich are) similar in one way and that is they each have tremendous presence. Both guys are almost scary in their presence. You know they're in charge. But they both care so much about you, as a human being and that comes across. That's critical as a coach. You've got to be in charge, but you've got to care about your guys. If they sense that you don't, then you're in trouble.

"But personality wise, I'm a little more like Pop. Phil is kind of cryptic in what he says and mystical. He's been a huge influence on me with my daily life, but I'm probably more like Pop personality-wise."

Put another way, Kerr acknowledges being a bit of crank. Hmm. There has been no sign of that during phone calls or at his introductory news conference on Tuesday.

This could be a good thing for the Warriors -- something they could have used but rarely received from former coach Mark Jackson.

Jackson, a minister, took a ministerial approach. He was all unwavering support, praising and cajoling and trusting and believing. He expressed faith instilled confidence. Tough love was used sparingly, maybe too sparingly.

And it worked, for the most part.

But there were those times when the ball was being thrown away or the defense rested or the intensity failed to materialize . . . when Jackson would have been justified in using his words as a blunt instrument.

Kerr is saying he's less likely to drop clues about poor play than to summon the subject of his displeasure. That's the Pop Way, and it has worked exceptionally well for nearly two decades in San Antonio.

No, Kerr is not going to come in and grab Stephen Curry's collar or direct profanity-laced tirades at Harrison Barnes. He's going to hold guys accountable, every time, and call them out when he feels the moment is right.

That approach appeals to Joe Lacob, the team's hard-charing CEO. It appeals to co-owner Peter Guber, the Hollywood dealmaker who can play tough. It appeals even to Bob Myers, usually the mellowest man in the room.

"I'm not coming in here thinking I've got to change a whole lot," Kerr said. "Mark Jackson did a really good job with this club and he got them to this point. And now it’s my job to continue that upward trend however I can."

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It will come handy that Kerr is a willing diplomat. That, to be sure, was one of the reasons he was hired. Yes, there was the 16-page document Kerr presented to the Warriors, outlining his vision as head coach. There were the numerous past relationships with team executives, from Lacob and Myers to team president and COO Rick Welts.

But Kerr would not have been hired if Lacob didn't believe he has the proper temperament and balance to find symmetry between meeting requests from above and the appeals of his players.

Jackson more often than not leaned heavily toward his players, many of whom are Christian.

"I’m extremely open-minded," Kerr said. "I believe in the sanctity of the locker room. Phil Jackson was a very spiritual coach. He was more a Buddhist than a Christian. But it didn’t matter. He gave his players space to think and some quiet time before games. I anticipate doing something similar, but each player has to develop his own routine and what makes him comfortable before a game."

Kerr is new at this coaching gig, but he has reasonable ideas that make sense. That was enough to sell him to Lacob and Myers, who walked into the room ready to buy.

The hard part, though, comes with Kerr selling himself to the players. He'll need more than a grin for that, and it appears he has plenty to offer.

 

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