Steve Kerr is tougher than he looks

Steve Kerr is tougher than he looks
May 21, 2014, 2:30 pm
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Steve Kerr's background and philosophies may make up for his lack of coaching experience. (AP) 

The resilient Steve Kerr is prepared to implement his plan with the Warriors. (USATSI) 

OAKLAND -– The "360 Degrees of Steve Kerr" story has written and reviewed and digested around here for a full week now, ever since he decided to become the next Warriors coach.

Though the team officially introduced Kerr on Tuesday, when he joined the brain trust to pose for photos, illuminate the process and project the future, the vetting of the man continues.

So while urging everyone to wait and see if Kerr quits next week or revolutionizes the NBA, we present five pieces of evidence that indicate he's tougher and more fearless than he looks.

1) Kerr fought Michael Jordan.

Back in 1996, when they were Bulls teammates, Jordan was the aging legend returning from his first retirement, Kerr the fringe player coming off the bench. The two got physical during a practice at the team facility.

And when Jordan laid a forearm into Kerr, Kerr came right back at His Airness with a push of his own. Jordan, three inches taller and 20 pounds heavier, punched Kerr in the face, resulting in a black eye he'll always remember with fondness.

It was the blow that, according to Chicago coach Phil Jackson, galvanized the team, which went on to win the NBA Championship.

Kerr received not only an apology from Jordan by phone a few hours after the incident but also earned lifelong respect from the man who at the time was bigger than the game.

2) Kerr broke the hearts of bullies.

Kerr's father, Malcolm, was a university president in Beirut, Lebanon and was assassinated by Islamic terrorists in 1984. Steve was 18 years old and a freshman at University of Arizona.

Two nights after his father's death, Kerr wept during the national anthem and then came off to help the Wildcats beat rival Arizona State. It was the first Pac-10 victory for a coach named Lute Olson.

[RELATED: Kerr: 'I want head-coaching experience next to me']

Four years later, Kerr was coming off knee surgery and once again facing ASU in Tempe. The crowd turned ugly, unleashing cruel taunts upon Steve about the murder of his father.

He cried, cleared up and made all six of his 3-pointers in the first half in a 'Cats rout.

3) Kerr was abused by John Stockton during a drill at Gonzaga.

Back in '83, Kerr was a 17-year-old who had played high school ball out of the United States due to his father's career. The youngster got no love from American colleges. Only one, Gonzaga, offered a scholarship.

Kerr took his trip to Spokane, where he played pickup ball against a Bulldogs guard he'd never heard of. It was Stockton, who tortured Kerr at both ends of the court.

"He kicked my butt," said Kerr said at the time. "He worked me over, up and down the court. He was quicker. He was faster. He was nice about it, but he kicked my butt . . . This guy nobody'd ever heard of. I was devastated."

So bad did Kerr look that Gonzaga pulled the scholarship offer, telling him he was likable enough but too slow to make it in the old West Coast Conference.

Kerr responded by intensifying his own workouts, which led him to be discovered by Olson, who visualized Kerr as a role player instead of the star he became.

4) Kerr married Margot Brennan.

According to my guy, and Kerr's high school buddy, Mike Silver, Kerr was not exactly a playboy at Pacific Palisades High in Brentwood, Southern California. Who knows where he might have ended up if he hadn't met Margot Brennan on a blind date during their sophomore years at Arizona?

They were married five years later and Margot Kerr has since gained a reputation.

Silver, in a Sports Illustrated piece, described her as spunky and sometimes "serpent-tongued," saying she's as hard on Steve in front of him as she is unwaveringly loyal when he's not around.

Margot Kerr had a reputation for phoning into talk shows, particularly during the Chicago years. She would prank the hosts, and at least once offered a blistering critique of one's physique.

As her husband was being introduced to the Bay Area on Tuesday, Margot Kerr was the picture of class, sitting in the front row with two of the couple's three children.

[RELATED: Kerr arrives in Golden State with 'Pop' plan]

5) Kerr once got drunk with Dennis Rodman.

This is another from Silver's SI files. He's a buddy of Rodman and seems to specialize in such stories.

Kerr was part of a group led by Rodman that rented a tour bus in Philadelphia and took it from the Bulls' hotel to Atlantic City for some wee-hours fun Also on the trip was Jud Buechler, a former Warriors reserve who had been a teammate of Kerr at U of A.

Kerr told Silver that the idea for the all-night party came from none other than Jackson, the coach, who sensed Rodman was distancing himself from the team.

This was, you see, a team-building experience, one that left Kerr with a hangover.

So no one was surprised that when rumors of Rodman being in financial trouble went public, Kerr was among the first to volunteer to help his former teammate -– and, for at least one night, drinking buddy.

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