Warriors Coach Steve Kerr on Campus
Golden State Warriors Coach Steve Kerr spoke at USF Oct. 23, discussing his transition from NBA player to coach, his approach to leading a team of leaders, and why he feels compelled to speak up on social and political issues.
More than 1,600 attended the sold-out Silk Speaker Series event at War Memorial Gymnasium at the Sobrato Center. USF director of special initiatives and former women's basketball coach Jennifer Azzi and director of USF's Sport Management program Dan Rascher led the discussion.
Kerr, who spent 15 years as a player, said he planned for his transition to coaching with stints in ownership and operations, working as a broadcast commentator, and talking with coaches like NBA greats Gregg Popovich and Phil Jackson.
"I was very interested in what made teachers and leaders tick. And why they were successful. What I found was that everyone sort of got to the same message. The message was: 'You have to be yourself,’" Kerr said. "Yes, you have to be prepared. You have to have a plan. You have to have a vision. But your players and the people around you are going to know if you're authentic, you're real. So you want your authenticity as a leader to come out."
What kind of leader?
Another key skill to being a successful coach and leader, Kerr said, is good communication, to the point of over-communicating — which he didn't think was possible.
While some kinds of leaders might be born, anyone can be a leader on a basketball team because there are different types of leadership, Kerr said — from the physical and vocal leadership of someone like Draymond Green to the work ethic and celebrating of others' accomplishments that Stephen Curry brings.
"My job as a coach and our job as a staff is to put all those voices and all that talent together and try to bring the most out of each player," Kerr said.
Asked why global social and political issues matter to him and why he's willing to speak up, including supporting NFL players’ rights to kneel in protest during the national anthem, Kerr reflected back to when he was 8 years old and saw students protesting the killing of 58,000 soldiers in Vietnam and former President Richard Nixon's impeachment for lying to Americans.
"I think the times call for [speaking up]," Kerr said. "It's not like misinformation by the government or industry or people is new. It's just that there's a powerful force behind it now with social media and propaganda, and so all of a sudden it feels like we're in a really perilous time. I think it's important that people feel strongly enough to vote and also, if you feel inclined, to speak up. I feel strongly about certain issues and I have a microphone in front of me an awful lot so I tend to speak up."