Kerr faces tough task with Warriors

Kerr faces tough task with Warriors
May 14, 2014, 8:45 pm

Steve Kerr's first task as Warriors' coach is to assemble a veteran staff that will help him in his first year. (USATSI)

Now that the Warriors have tracked down the coach they really, really, really wanted, we get to see if their headhunter's delight foreshadows satisfaction on the basketball court.

It likely will, but probably not as exquisitely as CEO Joe Lacob imagines.

New coach Steve Kerr is, by all accounts, a good man. He's smart and engaging and knowledgeable. In the 26 years since he left the University of Arizona, where he was a constant subject of abuse from fans around the old Pac-10 Conference, Kerr has made countless friends in the NBA and around the globe.

But succeeding as a coach in the league is about so much more than making friends.

Kerr is a rookie head coach who must now come into a Warriors franchise that embraces him at the top but a roster he will have to win over. The locker room harmonized with the strong Christian beliefs of former coach and reverend Mark Jackson. It will take considerable time and work, but I have little doubt that he will.

I have tremendous doubt, however, that Kerr and his staff will make an immediate and appreciable difference in the team's record.

Kerr almost can't help but assemble a coaching staff more experienced that than that which operated under Mark Jackson. Kerr and Co. will oversee an offense that should be more fluid and consistent. And Kerr, when facing the hard questions sure to come, will be less strident and bellicose in his own defense than Jackson ever was.

Sounds good, eh? As good as all of it seems, it would not necessarily translate into more victories for the Warriors – or even deeper postseason runs.

The Warriors won 51 games in 2013-14, their best season in 22 years, since they went 55-27 in 1991-92. They won some games as underdogs, and lost some as fat cats. Jackson attributed the inconsistency to the growing process, to the learning curve of the league. He is right.

But that does not adequately capture the breadth of the equation.

The Western Conference is as deep as it ever has been, and most every team ahead of the Warriors poses a jumbo threat for which the Warriors have no answer.

The Spurs have Tim Duncan and Tony Parker and Gregg Popovich and a consistent commitment to an incomparable system. The Thunder has Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The Clippers have Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. The Rockets have Dwight Howard. The Trail Blazers have LaMarcus Aldridge.

Behind the Warriors, at least this season, were the Grizzlies, who have twin peaks in Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.

There is a reason the Warriors finished sixth in the conference, and not all of it is related to the steady stream of injuries or to any shortcomings related to coaching staff or strategy.

Guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson aside, the Warriors' roster simply doesn't compare with most of the teams that finished with better records.

The Warriors of this past season operated as much on synergy as skill or talent. They have a unique star in Curry, a budding All-Star in Thompson and a cast of good but rarely game-altering players.

Center Andrew Bogut is a solid defense presence who doesn't move as well as he once did and is plagued by injury. Power forward David Lee is by turns productive and ineffective. Small forward Andre Iguodala is a subtle impact player with a maddeningly inconsistent shot. Harrison Barnes is a work in progress but his potential is being downsized. Draymond Green is a wonderful role player, essential to a contender but still working on efficiency.

The Warriors are a good team that finished about where they should have and then overachieved in taking the Clippers to seven games in the first round of the playoffs. Even CEO Joe Lacob, a massive fan of Kerr, conceded Jackson was not outcoached by Los Angeles' Doc Rivers, who is considered one of the top three coaches in the NBA.

If that was a backhanded compliment to Jackson, so be it. He deserved much of the credit after spending the season under assault for a variety of reasons, including constant questioning of his coaching acumen.

Well, Jackson is gone now. In his place is Kerr, who will spend the next couple weeks assembling his staff.

Before the Warriors' brain trust gets too giddy or the fans' projections get too lofty, everyone should take a moment to absorb the concept that even superior coaching may not deliver vastly improved results.

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