Storyline: Steve Kerr Health

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Entering this season, it’s my understanding Steve is considered fully healthy. But how do you prepare for any scenarios where you might be the interim head coach again? “It’s easy for me. I’m an assistant coach here. Steve is the head coach and is our leader. I understand that 100 percent … If Steve takes time off again or something like that, I understand it’s my job to take the step up and take over the team. But in the meantime, I’m very excited about my role and looking forward to us heading into the year with Steve being healthy the entire year and competing for another championship.”

Take me through that time when you found out you would be the interim coach during most of the playoffs, and what you got out of that experience? Mike Brown: ”It’s probably one of the toughest things I’ve had to walk into. I just relied on the experiences I had in the past. I tried to figure out different scenarios or situations good and bad that we may run into throughout the course of this run as the acting head coach and imagined myself in a situation that made me uncomfortable because we’re down big or a player and I had a disagreement. I tried to internalize how I would respond. It was almost like when you give a speech, you look in the mirror and say the speech to yourself so you can watch your facial inflections, reactions and all that other stuff. Then you go out and you actually do it.”

Mike Brown: “[Steve’s] communication skills are on par with one of the greatest communicators of all time in Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs. Their style is a little bit different. But it’s just as effective, just as powerful and garners just as much as Pop does from some of the greatest players of all time because of the way he communicates. One of the attributes that I observed on a daily basis was how even keeled he was. He never got too excited, nor did he ever get too down, no matter if things were good or things were bad in front of him. Our guys, especially the veteran group we have, really feed off of that. They know if Steve was a believer in them and he was calm, cool and collected, that they would be the same and just focus on trying to do their jobs at the highest level. For me, that was one of the biggest things I wanted to concentrate on.”

How confident is he that he’ll be able to coach all season? “I fully expect to coach all year,” Kerr says in a no-nonsense tone. “That’s my expectation. And for many years to come.” He says that getting back to the demands and pressures of the job when training camp opens won’t be a problem. “No, I don’t look at it that way,” Kerr says. “I enjoy what I do; I don’t look at it like a grind and pressure. I’m looking forward to getting back in the gym.”

No coach ever stops coaching, even in the offseason. Kerr says he spends at minimum a couple of hours a day on Warriors business. “I’m on the phone, talking to (general manager) Bob Myers, talking to our coaches and to different people. Writing down thoughts, putting together plans for our coaching retreat (before training camp). It might be just something that pops into my head, where I just stop and write something down. But I’m not Jon Gruden (famous workaholic), I’m not waking up at five in the morning and going to the film room (laugh).”

General manager Bob Myers said Monday that Kerr would have time off as needed in the coming weeks to find more options to better his long-term health, and Kerr said he would be traveling to do so. “I think at the point we’re at now, it’s what makes you 5-10-15 percent better? And that’s what he’s going to pursue and explore with our blessing,” Myers said. “The hope is he got back to the place he was prior to leaving in Portland, which is not where he wants to be but he can coach. There’s a little bit of a misconception that stepping away would help him heal. And I tried to dispel that and you should ask him, because I think even he gets a little offended at the notion of, `Just step away and go get better.’ I said this before, this is where he feels the best, which may be counterintuitive to what people think. It’s not that the job diminishes him in any way. Actually, the job, I would say, propels him.”
4 months ago via ESPN

The lingering issues from the back surgery he had in 2015 that kept him out for the first half of the season last year returned with a vengeance two games into these playoffs. Brown took over, the winning continued, while Kerr’s condition steadily improved. He still doesn’t sound great. He’s not at his best. But it’s the NBA Finals, the highest level of his hoop. “That’s why I got into coaching,” Kerr said. “My TV gig was pretty good, but I love the competition. This is such an epic matchup. These guys are so damn good. It was frustrating not to be there for Game 1. It’s frustrating not to be with the team the last 5-6 weeks on the sidelines. It’s just great to be back.”

Kerr didn’t want to become a gratuitous drama to these Warriors, or worse: Kerr didn’t want to be less than himself upon his return to these NBA Finals and somehow fail his franchise. The agony of a recurring spinal cord leak had sent him away, and a hurdle to his return had been the uncertainty of his staying power. Kerr couldn’t bear to come back – only to feel worse again, and leave these Warriors back with top assistant coach Mike Brown. In a quiet corridor of Oracle Arena on Sunday night, Myers nodded his head toward the Warriors locker room. “When Steve and I discussed it, I told him, ‘They support you trying, too,’ ” Myers told The Vertical. “Everybody supports you trying, too. We understand there’s a risk of trying, but it’s a risk worth taking, too. And if it hadn’t have gone well, we’d pick ourselves up and move on. “In my opinion, the bigger risk would’ve been him saying that he was ready, me believing that he was ready and then denying him. That would’ve been wrong all the way around.”

When everyone walked past Myers on Sunday night, congratulating him on the series, he swiftly told each of them: We were up 2-0 a year ago to them, and how did that turn out? Nevertheless, something did change on Sunday night for Golden State. Kerr was back, and they became whole again. “Listen, I am happy for him,” Myers said. “I’m happy for the outcome tonight. But I think mostly, I am happy that he got to do this. This is the pinnacle of a coach’s career. To have to sit on the sideline in these moments is excruciating.”

Q: Is him coaching tomorrow on the table? Bob Myers: Every game has been on the table, and I don’t know. But they’ve all been on the table. If we end up saying they’re off the table, you guys would know. If they were off the table right now, I’d sit here and tell you. It’s off the table, they’re all off the table. I don’t know the right way to do it, but the way we’re choosing to do it is, give him as much time as he needs. If he gets to that point in time, we’ll deal with it then.

He’s here, but he’s not here. And one of these days – maybe even on Sunday when the Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers face off at Oracle Arena for Game 2 – that much will change. “Every (playoff) game has been on the table (for a possible Kerr return), and I don’t know (about Game 2),” Myers told a small group of reporters at the team’s media availability session. “But they’ve all been on the table. If we end up saying they’re off the table, you guys would know… The way we’re choosing to do it is give him as much time as he needs, and if it gets to that point in time, we’ll deal with it then.”

From Myers’ vantage point, the process is a whole lot easier because of the trust that everyone has in the 51-year-old Kerr. “When that day comes, and he says I’m ready, I think we’ll say, ‘Go coach,’” Myers said. “In his entire tenure here, he’s done what’s best for the team. This isn’t about him or his ego or anything like that. If anything, he’s shown a willingness to put the team first all of the time, and so whatever decision is made that will be the primary focus. What’s best for our team? I trust him on that side.

There was a report last night that Steve Kerr might be able to come back Sunday. How realistic is that? Bob Myers: I think we’re going to hear, ‘Steve might come back’ for the rest of the series. It’s an easy thing for someone to say. I could say that every day, and it could be true. But until it becomes something different than that, whether it means he’s not or he is, it’s going to keep being, “he might.” That’s what keeps the question being asked, which is fair. People want to know. I would say nothing has changed from last night to today, when you’re talking to me. Otherwise, we would have announced it. So it’s still status quo. We’re seeing how he feels and we’ll read that on a daily basis.

Can you describe what it is you’re evaluating as you decide whether you can coach now? Steve Kerr: It’s a pain thing and the repercussions of pain. I’ve been dealing with it for almost two years. I’ve been able to deal with it for the most part. It’s not a cognitive thing. It’s not even really an energy thing. It’s a pain thing. And the threshold is really important–what’s the threshold? For whatever reason, I don’t know why, but a month ago, man, it got worse.

Nick (Kerr’s son) said there’s been no direct communication with Mike during games… -KERR: No, none. -Q: Is that difficult to resist–you ever felt like telling Nick to go run out to the bench and tell Mike something? -KERR: No. No. There’s 10 or 15 decisions you make during the game, rotation decisions. Most of them are all pretty easy for us because we have generally been staying with what we do, maybe it’s an Ian or Patrick thing, or how long do we stay with JaVale. There’s not really huge rotation decision-making.*

“First of all, Steve may be back,” Brown told The Undefeated on Thursday night after the Cavaliers eliminated the Boston Celtics, 135-102, in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals to advance to their third consecutive Finals against the Warriors. “We all want him to be back. So, I’m just taking this thing one day at a time. He’s been great. [General manager] Bob Myers has been great. The guys [players] have been great.

Kerr said: “We gotta find that balance between pace and discipline. Right? So we’re a little out of sorts because we’re trying to push it, trying to push it. And now we’re turning it over a little bit. I thought our defense was actually really good in the first quarter. But then we turned it over and they got some easy ones. And now we’re playing from behind. But in the second quarter we got out of sorts. So, get your poise back, wings run like crazy. Just settle in on like three stops in a row. Three stops in a row and the push will come from that. Settle in. We’ll be all right.”
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