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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Wildcat in Charge

    Steve Kerr will always be a Wildcat legend – with his No. 25 jersey streaming from the rafters in McKale Center – after a successful career that culminated in a berth in the program’s first Final Four in 1988.

    Now, as the newly minted general manager of the Phoenix Suns, Kerr hopes to gain a similar place in Suns lore by bringing the 40-year-old franchise its first NBA championship.

    Kerr, who took over as GM in June, has been busy during his first few months on the job. He entered the Kevin Garnett sweepstakes before deciding the price tag was too high and traded away Kurt Thomas in a cost-cutting move after the draft, before learning that Shawn Marion wished to be dealt in the week leading up to last week’s training camp in McKale Center.

    “”Very busy, very busy, and a chance for me to kind of get my feet wet and learn,”” Kerr said of his first few months. “”The good thing is I already had relationships with the staff and players. I know everybody very well, and it’s been a lot of fun to continue to get to know (people).””

    He also took part in his first draft during his first month on the job, trading away a first-round pick while drafting Alando Tucker in the first round and D.J. Strawberry in the second. The draft process was not completely foreign to Kerr, however, as he sat through the last three drafts as a consultant.

    Kerr learned the league while playing 15 NBA seasons, possessing a knack for being at the right place at the right time in his role as a 3-point specialist on five NBA championship teams. With his long-range prowess, Kerr holds the NBA record for career 3-point percentage (.454).

    After retirement Kerr worked as an analyst for TNT, saying last year that he did not want a job with a bigger commitment so he could spend time with his family. Besides being rumored as a potential general manager at the time, there have also been rumblings that Kerr would make a good men’s basketball coach at Arizona when head coach Lute Olson retires.

    What made Kerr decide to take the reins of a 24/7 job by taking over as general manager of the Suns?

    “”I realized that I could do both, that I didn’t have to just stick with broadcasting,”” Kerr said. “”I traveled a lot with broadcasting, too, but I realized that I could do this and still maintain a good family life and find a balance, and that’s what I’ve done. It’s worked out really well.””

    Although Suns owner Robert Sarver, also a UA alumnus, did not see it as inevitable that Kerr would eventually be his team’s lead executive, it’s not surprising.

    When Sarver bought the Suns for a then-NBA record $401 million in 2004, Kerr backed his bid as an investor and set him up with the right people to make the offer, with Olson introducing the current Suns executives to one another.

    “”It’s just good to have someone you feel real confident in, so you know you can delegate to (him or her) and (know) they’re going to do a good job,”” said Sarver, who speaks with Kerr almost every day. “”So for me it’s nice to have him here.

    “”I knew he’d be involved with the franchise in some capacity, but I’m happy that he’s agreed to step up and take over the basketball role.””

    Kerr’s arrival eased the burden on Suns head coach Mike D’Antoni, who also served as the team’s general manager last season. Although D’Antoni received lots of help from assistant GM David Griffin, he said his job would be easier this year being able to concentrate fully on coaching.

    “”He’s great,”” D’Antoni said of Kerr. “”He’s just a good guy to be around. He’s a guy that keeps things going in the way that they’re going, and we haven’t had to change anything. He’s super. Just his personality and the way he works has been great.””

    As Kerr looked ahead to his future with the Suns, standing near the 3-point line in McKale that helped make him famous, he reflected on the Hall of Fame-caliber coaches who helped him along the way.

    The illustrious list includes names such as Phil Jackson, Lenny Wilkens and Gregg Popovich in the pros and Olson, who taught him that every day is an education.

    “”I learned from all of them,”” Kerr said, “”and I think the big thing is daily organization of your time, being efficient, and then developing relationships with all the people you’re working with. It’s important to communicate every day.””

    Almost 20 years out of college, Kerr is still using the lessons he learned at Arizona in his quest to lead the Suns to a championship.

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