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From Record Highs to This Season’s Lows, Steve Kerr Loves Coaching

Despite The Dubs' 15-50 Record, Kerr Said: “I Still Enjoy Coming To Work Every Day."

Five years ago today, Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr made history. A Dubs’ 123-110 victory over the Dallas Mavericks secured his place in NBA history with the all-time record for most wins by a first-year head coach. The win on that Saturday night was the 63rd for Kerr and the Warriors, who would go on to finish the regular season with a 67-15 record.

That accomplishment was the first of many as a head coach for Kerr, who has on numerous occasions credited former Warriors Head Coach Mark Jackson with creating a winning attitude within the organization and spoke how he was so lucky to inherit a team with so much talent.

"He set the table for a lot of what's happening now. He deserves a lot credit,” said Kerr in 2015.

“When I was in TV, I was doing Warriors games for years; every year, they were one of the worst defensive teams in the league. Mark came in and made a focus of being a tough defensive-minded team… We already knew they had established that defensive identity. Our job was to improve the offense — to get more movement and more flow. And that was my focus.”

Even with that modesty, one can’t ignore the team’s success while Kerr has manned the sidelines. He coached the 2014-15 Warriors’ to their first NBA Championship in 40 years, led the team to the NBA Finals the following four consecutive seasons and won two more titles in 2017 and 2018, and in the process became the fastest coach in any major sport to reach the 300-win plateau, needing 377 games to do so. He was also selected as an assistant coach to the USA Basketball Men's National Team by legendary head coach Gregg Popovich.

Unfortunately, Kerr’s sixth season has played out far differently from what was expected.

Injuries to Klay Thompson (ACL) and Stephen Curry (hand), as well as more bumps and bruises to other Dubs throughout the campaign, took their toll. The roster has gone through a variety of changes as the Warriors made several moves, including trades, maneuvering around two-player contract limitations and bringing on new Dubs with 10-day contracts. With an ever-changing squad through most of the season, Kerr’s 2019-20 Warriors own the worst record in the NBA at 15-50.

One would think this sudden downturn would affect Kerr negatively, but that has not been the case.

After shootaround on Jan. 10, Kerr told media “I still enjoy coming to work every day, working with the players, working with the staff and management.”

“We have a great group of people here,” Kerr said. “Despite the losses, I’m still having fun. I think everybody is.”

The fun comes in the form of a new challenge this season for the Warriors’ head coach. In his first five seasons, Kerr was able to lean on the talents and synergy of Curry, Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, and additional veterans who joined the team at various times, including two-time NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant, former All-Star David West and longtime pros Shaun Livingston and Zaza Pachulia. By his own admission, previous seasons were more about “[managing] the team though the season, prepare for the playoffs, and try to get guys rest when I could.”

But the 2019-20 season is different, and not just because of the team’s record.

“We just have to adapt as a coach and adapt to your circumstances and continue to work…. We had to focus more on details with these young guys than we’ve had to in the last five years,” Kerr said in early March.

“I feel our staff has done a great job,” he continued. “The players are developing, but we are losing and the name of the game is to win. We are hoping that this season, at least, is a productive one in terms of getting us ready for what is coming down the road.”

The younger Dubs on the squad are responding to Kerr’s plan for development, too.

Warriors big man Marquese Chriss praised his head coach on Mar. 7, saying “Steve (Kerr) is a player’s coach. He lets you play, lets you hoop and play through your mistakes. I think that is the biggest thing for us is to be able to play through our mistakes and build from there.”

“This is a championship organization. They know what they want and they know what it takes. I think that we all came here with open minds and are willing to learn,” he finished.

One of those who Kerr granted the opportunity to play though early growing pains in their young career is rookie Jordan Poole.

Through his first 29 games, Poole averaged 7.1 points on 25.4 percent shooting. But prior to the NBA season being put on hold due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Poole had scored in double digits 12 of his last 13 games, averaging 14.3 points on 47.2 percent from the floor in that span. The credit, he said, was due to Kerr and the relationship he established with Poole.

“Being able just to have your head coach, even if you’re going through a struggle, or you know you’re not playing up to your potential, and continue to have a coach who wants to push you, push you, push you, and knows what your limits are and he knows your strengths, and I’m kind of just beyond blessed to be in this situation,” said Poole on Mar. 1.

A playoff appearance is not in the cards for the Warriors given their record, snapping their streak of consecutive postseason appearances at seven. The team has pivoted to giving players opportunities to put their talents on display as they prepare for next season. But that doesn’t mean that Kerr hasn’t had any positive takeaways from the 2019-20 campaign.

A playoff appearance is not in the cards for the Warriors given their record, snapping their streak of consecutive postseason appearances at seven. The team has pivoted to giving players opportunities to put their talents on display as they prepare for next season. But that doesn’t mean that Kerr hasn’t had any positive takeaways from the 2019-20 campaign.

“I think I’ve learned how to be a better coach. I haven’t had to coach a situation like this, and it’s been a good reminder that every circumstance is different, every year is different.”

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