Steve Kerr and the Golden State Warriors have put together one of the great runs in NBA history, winning two titles in three years. But this year feels a little different, with Kerr often appearing exasperated and frustrated. Could this be the time that Kerr decides to drift off into the sunset? Will he be back with the Warriors next year? Andrew Sharp and Ben Golliver discuss on the latest episode of the Open Floor podcast.
(Listen to the latest Open Floor Podcast here. The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Andrew Sharp: The question I had for you, as far as the Warriors' future is concerned: Do you think this is Steve Kerr's last year coaching the Warriors?
Ben Golliver: Well, that is a good question. He endulged in some serious gallows humor in his Game 7 press conference. He said, basically, after the poor first half that he thought about resigning and he was joking.... but was he joking? It's one of those situation where you pour all of it in and you have this team that's kind of hanging on the ledge of being the biggest underacheivers of the 21st century in the NBA.
You go through the other teams that have kind of fallen short of expectations: whether it was the 2011 Heat—it was their first year together; whether it was the 2004 Lakers, where they make the Finals but they're shocked with a loss; whether it was the 2007 Mavericks, where they blow a 67-win season in the first round; whether you look at even the Warriors in 2016. None of those teams that I mentioned had four All-Stars, two MVPs—all in their primes, all having played together and won a title together—at risk of going out in the conference finals. There's nothing else comparable in recent history to that.
And had Kerr not gotten them over that hump, I think he would've been in line for some serious, serious heat. We know their ownership group is very demanding there and that's just one of those situations where you just didn't get it done. However you planned to manage this thing, however you planned to get these guys through this, the bottom line was you didn't get the job done. And I don't know, maybe it would have been his decision as he was joking.
Sharp: It certaintly would have been framed as his decision regardless of what really went in on.
Golliver: Yeah, for sure, you don't fire him in the postgame press conference if you're like out of range, right? You do it the right way. But something big would have had to give if they lost the series. That's my point.
Sharp: Well, first of all, in this scenario you're describing, the rationale for moving on from Kerr would be that he's just not connecting with his team anymore. Which I think is a little big true. Again, you were at the game so you didn't see his interview after the first quarter, but a lot of times coaches have to go do that first quarter interview and they're kind of curt or aloof and then there's Popovich. But Kerr, it was maybe the most pissed off first quarter interview I've ever seen from a coach. He literally was like that was the worst quarter of basketball we've ever played. We're down by five so we're fine and then just walked away and just was very pissed off.
And you look at the way this Warriors team has played this year—all year—and you just have to assume that behind the scenes Kerr is going insane trying to connect with these guys and get them to lock in and actually play like a team or play like a team who gives a s---. And so, as far as his future is concerned, that was the one thing that was in the back of my mind in the second half. I really like Kerr and I also really like D'Antoni and it was a bummer to watch the Rockets kind of fold there in the second half and run out of gas. I would've been very happy for Mike D'Antoni specifically. He's the kind of guy who doesn't take himself too seriously and just seems like one of the best dudes in the NBA.
And Kerr is in that same boat so that's the one silver lining of this Warriors win. I do think he's going to leave after this season and I would rather have him win and go out on a high note and go out winning three titles in four years and just go on and live a really happy life and be a brilliant voice in the basketball community who doesn't have to deal with this crazy a-- Warriors situation going forward. But that was the one other thread from this game that stuck out for me.
Golliver: That's a pretty hot take. I appreciate that. Good job, don't pull punches. I love it. One thing, though, with these Warriors is that it's possible they take all the wrong lessons from this victory, too, right? Let's say they do beat Cleveland, are they going to ruminate over the summer and say, 'Guys, look, we really got a little full of ourselves there. We relied too much on flipping the switch in the third quarters. We knew we could beat them and were fine. That was a mentality that we need to nip in the bud. We need to come back laser focused and try to thump teams game after game next season.' For some reason, I don't think they're going to take the right lessons from this. And I think that's when you get into that dangerous situation like those '04 Lakers or whoever else, where you start to believe your own B.S. too much and eventually that comes back to bite you.
But that is sort of the tricky thing if you're Steve Kerr. Your whole coaching career you wanted to be this philosophical example of playing the right way, doing the right thing, strength in numbers, sharing the ball, passing the ball. And this team doesn't really embody all of those characteristics necessarily.
Sharp: They do for stretches. There are times when you can see it all working and Kerr's vision comes to fruition and Steph is playing unselfish basketball and they are not only unstoppable but it's gorgeous to watch. But more often than not they are driving him insane. So I think at some point that has to matter.
Golliver: They're driving him insane and also not living up to his ideals. I think that's sort of an issue. So let's say he doesn't step away from this team. The problem is, he's kind of boxed himself into a corner because he's the nice guy, he's the friendly guy, he's the guy who lets you play music at practice and gets into crazy three-point shooting contest and gives you extra days off. He's played every player-friendly card that he has to play, so what does he do? Try to flip the script and try to turn into dark Kerr? And all of a sudden we're running four-hour practices and guys are sprinting up and down constantly and we're going to beat some respect for the game into you? Steve Kerr can't really play that card... so who knows?
Maybe this will be a blip in the radar. If they can get back up to sixth gear during the Finals, smoke LeBron off the court and maybe we'll look back and say, 'Hey, it was just a hard fought, tense series. They bent but they didn't break, they were able to kind of keep things together in the tight moments and they go forward. That is a possibility, but there are other possibilities too. And I guess that is one reason why I don't like the inevitability talk here. And I told you I thought something like a little bit less than a 50% chance they would win the title just because of the Steph Curry injury, and I think we saw that it was pretty close there. Maybe it wasn't 50-50 because of their control over this entire postseason, but it was a lot closer than last year's postseason, where there was like a 98% level of control.
Sharp: Well, we've gone way over on Warriors-Rockets and existential Warriors questions. But I would just say stay woke everyone. Kevin Durant is leaving this summer and I think talking this out with you had made me realize that the answer is clear, Dwane Casey is going to be coaching the Warriors next year. It's all kind of falling into place now.
Golliver: These are some big, big predictions. Go bold.