Golden State Warriors: Why Steve Kerr Was the Missing Piece All Along

The Golden State Warriors are title contenders. They have the best record in the NBA at 19-2, and they’re currently on a 14-game win streak. Let that sink in, Dub Nation.

Is Steve Kerr the main reason for that?

When Mark Jackson was fired, I believed that it was the wrong move (before the hire of Kerr), not because of his coaching, but because I was afraid of the potential repurcussions such a move would have on the Warriors’ face of the franchise, Stephen Curry, who was a huge supporter of Coach Jackson.

Given Kerr’s lack of coaching experience, I was hesitant about his ability to lead this team to greatness and if he’d be able to continue the defensive prowess that Coach Jackson instilled, but I was hopeful given his ideas on offense, in terms of ball movement, primarily. In addition, Kerr played under elite coaches such as Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich, so he learned from the best.

It’s still extremely early in the NBA season, but as of now, Kerr appears to be the answer. He was the missing link all along. However, it certainly doesn’t hurt that the Warriors are relatively healthy right now (except for David Lee), Curry is entering his prime, Klay Thompson has developed a lot, and both Curry and Thompson are already in midseason form after competing in the FIBA Basketball World Cup and winning gold medals.

Kerr isn’t the only reason for the Warriors’ dominant success so far this season, but the head coach certainly deserves a lot of credit.

He has done exactly what the Warriors lacked last season. Jackson was the right coach to get the Warriors out of the doldrums of dysfunction and into NBA relevance, but Kerr is the right coach to take them to the next step towards a championship because of his ability to utilize the skillsets of all of his players and get the most out of his players and their abilities.

For example, Kerr, unlike Jackson, is fully taking advantage of the immense range of skills that Andrew Bogut has. He’s utilizing Bogut’s elite passing and distribution for a center, and he’s successfully running the offense through him.

In addition, he’s putting his players in the best position to succeed. He’s starting Draymond Green, which improves the Warriors’ defense and gives them a much-needed stretch four. He also is starting Harrison Barnes, which has boosted Barnes’ confidence, and teaching him how he can still impact the game while playing with Curry, Thompson, or even with the reserves. He’s also utilizing Marreese Speights‘ infectious energy by playing him as the sixth man.

Kerr is distributing minutes well, and he’s defining each player’s role well too, which is easier said than done.

Kerr also worked hard to have one of the best coaching staffs in the league around him (which Jackson didn’t do, and according to Lacob, is one of the reasons why he was fired), and their complementary skillsets have helped produce a dominant offensive and defensive system.

Offense was clearly the biggest area that the Warriors struggled in last season, and he has vastly improved that this season.

Nov 9, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr looks on against the Phoenix Suns during the first half at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Warriors run a sort of hybrid offense, which includes motion offense and elements of the triangle. The offense is predicated on non-stop ball and player movement, and it also utilizes Bogut’s passing, Curry’s and Klay’s three-point shooting, and the Warriors’ depth.

Last season, the Warriors shot 46.2 from the field, which ranked ninth in the NBA. This doesn’t sound too bad, but given the amount of talent and offensive prowess on the roster, it was certainly underachieving. This season, with Kerr’s new offense in place, the Warriors are shooting 48.2 percent from the field, which is tied for second in the NBA.

Defensively, the Warriors were one of the best teams in the league that season. How many times have we been able to say that about a Warriors team, by the way? Last season, they held opponents to 43.6 percent shooting from the field, which tied for third in NBA.

With assistant coach Ron Adams’ help, Kerr has put in place an even more effective defense, as the Warriors have held opponents to just 40.9 percent shooting, which ranks first in the NBA, so far this season.

Kerr has created a perfect marriage of system and personnel in his first year with the Warriors.

He’s an extremely intelligent coach, but he also leads his team with high character. He’s a players’ coach, much like Bruce Bochy of the San Francisco Giants, and he admires each player that he coaches.

October 21, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr (top) instructs guard Klay Thompson (11, bottom) during the second quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

For example, he has believed in Thompson from his first day on the job. When trade rumors started to surface of Thompson being shipped to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love, Kerr was one of the people in the Warriors organization who wanted to keep Thompson instead of acquiring Love.

The Warriors ultimately decided to keep Thompson, and it seems to have worked out for them. Kerr believed in Thompson, his talent, and his potential, and he’s helping Thompson become one of the best shooting guards in the NBA.

Kerr also goes about his job with extreme humility. He admits that the Warriors’ current success is partially because he inherited a great team that already had a solid core and had won 51 games. Kerr understands how fortunate he is to be given the amount of talent he has up and down the roster, but he’s also utilizing that talent in the best way possible.

As Warriors’ sideline reporter Ros Gold-Onwude said, Kerr is open, friendly, kind, smart, and encouraging. He’s the type of coach any fan would want for their team because of his knowledge of the game but also his demeanor.

Kerr is a motivator but not a preacher. He’s eager to learn, he’s adaptable, he’s humble, and he’s gracious. He is the right leader for this Warriors team.

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