(Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images)
So You Think You Can Coach
By Brian Witt
A look behind Steve Kerr's decision to turn over the coaching duties to the players in Monday's win over Phoenix.
When Steve Kerr became the fastest coach in NBA history to 250 wins this past weekend, he made sure to give credit to another coach who played a big role in arriving at that milestone.
"It's actually 211," Kerr joked. "Luke (Walton) got 39. Raymond Ridder (Vice President, Communications) has been very clear about that. Raymond continues to point that out every single day. Can we eliminate the losses that Luke accrued while I was out? There were four of them for god sakes. I don't know why I have to take those. But it just means that I inherited a hell of a team with an amazing, talented group of players."
As it turns out, that special group of players may be even more talented than initially thought. Upon further review, they may have a knack for coaching, too.
On Monday night against the Suns, Kerr handed some of the coaching reins over to the players, and the results were generally positive. Golden State put up their highest point total of 2018 and held Phoenix to just 83 points, the second-fewest they've allowed in a game this season. Most importantly, the Warriors came away with the win.
So, what prompted Kerr's decision to let the players coach?
"It had to do with me trying to reach my team," Kerr revealed. "I haven't been able to reach them the last month. They are tired of my voice and I'm tired of my voice. It's been a long haul these last few years. I wasn't reaching them and we just figured it was probably a good night to pull a trick out of the hat and do something different. I just feel like when we are focused we are really tough to beat. Tonight we were focused. I think just having to count on each other and not hearing my voice, which sort of sounds like Charlie Brown's teacher at this point - that is what I sound like to them. They needed a different voice."
Cartoons aside, Kerr may have a point. Prior to Golden State's current three-game winning streak, the Dubs were in the midst of their worst stretch of the season. They lost back-to-back games, three of four and four of 10 – all for the first time during the 2017-18 campaign. Their offense had slowed, the defense was performing well below the high standard they hold themselves to, and turnover totals were often through the roof. Even the first two games of this current winning streak weren't ‘perfect' victories by any stretch.
So, Kerr put the onus on the players, and allowed them to sort it out for themselves.
"I told them the other night, after the last game, that we were going to do it. It's their team. I think that's one of the first things you have to consider as a coach. It's not your team, it's not Bob Myers team it's not Joe Lacob's team - although I'm not going to tell Joe that. It's their team and they have to take ownership of it. As coaches, our job is to nudge them in the right direction and guide them, but we don't control them. They determine their own fate. I don't feel like we focused well at all the last month. Just seemed like the right thing to do. I thought they communicated really well together and they drew up some nice plays. It was a good night for the guys."
Starting in the first quarter, different players began leading each timeout. First it was Andre Iguodala. Then Draymond Green. Then David West. Stephen Curry got a chance, too (we'll get to that in a minute).
Given the collective NBA experience of those players, you'd be hard-pressed to find a group more fitting to serve as quasi-player-coaches. Iguodala and West have each played over 1,000 career games, and are in the midst of their 14th and 15th NBA seasons, respectively. Green is a two-time NBA Champion and the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, and Curry is a two-time league MVP and one of the scariest offensive players in the history of the game. Green, who sat out the game due to injury, really seemed to enjoy his new temporary role.
"Draymond is very special human being," said Omri Casspi, who started in Green's place. "Smart and a lot of different things going for him. He knows the game better than anybody I've been around."
"I mean, it was a collective effort, just trying to stay locked in and enjoy the process of getting focused, and knowing our sets, being thoughtful about what lineups are out there, what we're trying to accomplish and execute. Obviously, he was a part of that," Curry said of Green. "Andre (Igoudala), D-West (David West), behind the scenes the other guys. A different feel was preparation for tonight, but I think it was a good, wouldn't call it an experiment, but it was a good vibe today."
Curry wasn't as complimentary of his own stab at coaching:
"I was horrible, actually. I thought about a play, and then I forgot the second option and had two guys in the wrong place on the board. And I actually got a delay of game coming out of halftime, because I was scrambling."
At the end of the night, though, it was Kerr that notched his 251st career coaching victory, despite him giving all the players their due credit. Given how successful the Warriors were on Monday, who knows, maybe he'll give the players additional opportunities to play the role of a coach moving forward.
Well, maybe not Steph, though.