Golden State Warriors: Can Steve Kerr Continue Improving?


The Golden State Warriors are without a doubt enjoying their time off after having dominated the league from start to finish, winning a NBA championship and thus setting the bar higher than it’s been in years.

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No one expected such a historically significant season from the Warriors, especially considering the team had just suffered a first round exit to the Los Angeles Clippers one year prior. Amidst a period of transition, there were hundreds of question marks going into last season. One of the main questions was how well a rookie head coach in Steve Kerr was going to continue building on the foundation left by Mark Jackson.

After helping lead the team to a 67-win season, it’s safe to say there was no one questioning whether Kerr, 49, could be a solid head coach in this league. As Kerr would likely say, there’s always room for improvement, but how exactly does one improve upon one of the best seasons in NBA history?

Just to recap on what the 6-time NBA champion was responsible for doing last year:

“We have the ring. We have the trophy. That’s the goal. Everything else is meaningless.” — Steve Kerr

Kerr raised the stakes in his first year as head coach, implementing a system that drew inspiration from former mentors like Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovic and Lute Olsen. That system would come to rely heavily on cuts, curls and a whole lot of ball movement and jump shooting, causing Hall of Famers like Charles Barkley to have a heart attack due to its obvious lack of an inside offensive presence.

It’s also that same system that helped turn Stephen Curry into a league MVP, Klay Thompson into a first-time All-Star and the rest of the team into NBA champions. In most cases, it was so perfectly executed that Kerr was given several opportunities to rest his players, and he almost always took the necessary precautions to avoid overplaying them.

In addition, Kerr would come to the realization that were he to switch around the roles of certain players — namely David Lee and Andre Iguodala for Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes, respectively — it would (1) better compliment the style of play he thought at which the Dubs would excel and (2) greatly strengthen their second unit.

Such a move was viewed by some as being incredibly risky considering many were still unsure how Kerr’s relationship with the players would be after Mark Jackson had left. That’s also without mentioning the fact that Lee and Iguodala were among the highest paid players on the team. Only time would tell how these two veterans would react to being in a role off the bench.

Now fast forward to the present: Lee is gone, Iguodala is still seemingly all good with coming off the bench, Barnes is now a serviceable starter, Green got cashed out and Kerr’s system is highly regarded among league analysts and other coaches — so much so that Kerr, in his first year coaching at any level, was the runner-up in Coach of the Year voting.

And speaking of other coaches, Kerr’s coaching staff has taken on a new look with former associate head coach, Alvin Gentry, now the head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans.

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Now, Luke Walton has been promoted to Gentry’s spot, Jarron Collins has assumed Walton’s role as an assistant coach after having spent last season as a player development coach and former UC Berkley (Cal) player Theo Robertson was promoted to player development video coordinator.

Furthermore, Bruce Fraser will continue to fill the role as player development coach, and Ron Adams — the defensive guru who had a hand in building on the defensive structure left behind by Kerr’s predecessor — will remain on staff as an assistant coach. How Kerr continues to balance this staff as it carries on without Gentry will definitely be an interesting storyline to follow.

But now that Kerr’s list of accolades has been laid out and the changes to his staff made known, I pose the question once again: how exactly does one improve upon one of the best seasons in NBA history?

It’s difficult to be critical of a coach when he’s the reigning champion, even more so considering he made very little mistakes in his rookie year. Of the mistakes you can name off the top of your head, not one stands out as a glaring problem that needs to be fixed in the immediate future. For example:

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  • There were those rare times he wouldn’t make a key substitution or call timeout when some would think it logical to do so, but even then, the Zen Master used to leave his guys in despite their poor play and force them to find a solution themselves, so it’s really anyone’s guess as to whether Kerr deliberately did those things to test his team and keep them humble (I say this lightheartedly).

    There were also a couple times when the team didn’t seem to understand the tempo at which they were supposed to be playing, and there were a few problems with spacing in a number of situations, but how much of that was solely the players’ fault is also anyone’s guess. If we’re talking overall strategy, however, it’s clear just from Kerr’s use of a clipboard that he was indeed an upgrade over MJax.

    Now one could assume that Kerr picked up a couple of new things on the road to last season’s championship and that he’ll be making whatever adjustments he feels necessary, but at this point, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    Winning another title is the name of the game, and what he did last season eventually resulted in the franchise’s first title in 40 years. If anything, whatever adjustments he’ll need to make will be done on the fly (as opposed to him brainstorming what he needs to work on in the offseason). To be honest, my best advice for Kerr would be to stop getting so many technical fouls (had 8 last season)!

    With the added pressure of being the reigning champs, it’ll be quite the ride for Kerr and his Warriors come October. Nevertheless, Kerr arguably had the best rookie season in head coaching history (why Jed York would ever put that kind of pressure on Jim Tomsula is beyond me). If there does so happen to be room for improvement — that is, improvements that he can make during the offseason going into the regular season — then the rest of the league best watch out because anything better than last year will likely result in a 73-win season.

    But as of right now, for Kerr, there really isn’t much to fix.

    Other than his back, of course.

    Next: Warriors 2016 Record Prediction