San Francisco Advantage

Coaching Through the Crisis

Steve Kerr finds opportunity in suspended basketball season

by Samantha Bronson, USF News

Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr has discovered an unexpected benefit to sheltering in place: time for self-reflection.

“What I realize now is that very rarely have we had the chance to actually sit down and examine everything,” Kerr said in an April 28 online discussion with Warriors President and COO Rick Welts, part of a series of online events for the USF community. The discussion was moderated by Jennifer Azzi, former USF women’s basketball coach and associate vice president of engagement for the university.

“It’s been really productive for me and for our staff,” Kerr said. "We’ve had much deeper conversations amongst the staff to try to come up with better ways to coach our players and better ways to approach next season.”

The Warriors organization is similarly reflecting on how they will invite fans back to the Chase Center, Welts said.

“We’re focused on improving every process we have,” Welts said. “We’re thinking about how we have a cleaner building, about how we have touchless transactions, about how we’re going to bring people into the building in a way that they feel comfortable.”

Welts added that this coronavirus-induced assessment is energizing. “You can take it and say, ‘Oh poor us’ or you can say, ‘Wow, here’s an opportunity to do some things that may carry on forever.’”

Off-Season Mode

Although the NBA suspended the season until further notice, the Warriors are in off-season mode, Kerr said. Players are working out at home, doing what they can.

“When this began, our training staff literally went to everybody’s house or apartment and brought them a treadmill, Stairmaster, whatever they liked best to work out with. But [they] don’t have access to a court,” Kerr said.

“The only guy who I know is actually able to shoot around is Steph Curry because he’s got a court. And he doesn’t need the practice; it’s the other guys who need the practice. It’s a unique challenge.”

In the absence of actual games, basketball fans have flocked to ESPN’s The Last Dance, a 10-part documentary series that focuses on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the 1997–98 season. Kerr, a teammate of Jordan’s on the Bulls, offered his take on the differences between that era of basketball and today.

“The biggest difference I recognize then and now is what the players have to go through once they leave the facility,” Kerr said. “The media attention (back then) was incredible at the facility, at games, but when you go home, that was it. It was over. Now with the social media aspect of it, players can’t ever escape it.”

That’s challenging, he said, but one positive is that players are more aware of their influence.

“You take a guy like Steph Curry, what he’s done through his social media platform, the amount of money he’s raised, the awareness, the joy he’s brought to so many lives, that wasn’t possible to do back then,” Kerr said.

Time to Speak Up

Kerr, who spoke at USF in October 2018 as part of the Silk Speaker Series, said he too feels an obligation to speak up. “It’s really important for all of us to understand the best way to use our voice, under what circumstances, and how to do so in a climate that is so divisive and so angry.”

The Warriors have joined COVID-19 relief efforts, donating T-shirts to be turned into masks, awarding grants through its foundation that would have been given later in the year, and financially helping 1,500 part-time employees.

Kerr started a podcast about coaching with Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, and money raised from the podcast is donated to the COVID-19 relief efforts of the Warriors Foundation and the Seahawks Foundation.

Kerr’s advice for navigating these times?

Use the opportunity during “this really strange, unique time to figure out how we can be better at anything, thinking outside the box, thinking of new ideas,” he said. “How does that translate when this is over? Hopefully (there are) new ways to connect but more importantly, more of a sense of gratitude for each other. If nothing else we’ve realized during this quarantine, everyone is so important.”