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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Former Wildcat Steve Kerr has made his NBA presence known

Keith Allison
Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr calls out a play during the Warriors’ 114-107 win against the Washington Wizards on Feb. 24, 2015. The UA men’s basketball alumnus made a name for himself at the highest level.

Former Arizona Wildcats legend Steve Kerr was a key member on arguably the greatest team for 1995-1996, the Chicago Bulls. Now, the team he is coaching could be even better.

Within two years, Kerr went from adding commentary on NBA games to revolutionizing basketball. It is crazy to think that it almost never happened.

Kerr garnered no buzz as a coach until NBA legend Phil Jackson recruited him for a 37-win New York Knicks franchise that was in full rebuild mode.

The Golden State Warriors were fresh off 51 wins, an agonizing game seven loss to the Los Angeles Clippers and sensed they needed a change. Mark Jackson was canned as the Warriors coach at the time because many skeptics Golden State could not improve.

The critics were even louder when Kerr was hired because he had no prior coaching experience. What would ensue, though, would be a 67-15 season that might have changed basketball.

While many were skeptical of how Steph Curry would fit in the NBA, Kerr saw a transcendent before he coached the Warriors. In 2009, Kerr was part of the Phoenix Suns and was willing to deal All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire for the scrawny shooter, but that deal fell through. Five years later, Kerr got his wish of working with Curry and proved he knew what he was talking about.

Before Kerr, Curry was tasked with carrying the load in an offense that often ended up limiting his game. While he was still the same shooter, teams could key on him more with a system so heavily reliant on him that he could not just freelance. Draymond Green was awkwardly thrust into a role as a reserve small forward and David Lee was one of the Warriors’ go-to players.

Once Kerr joined the team, an injury to Lee gave Green the ability to start and it has been harmony ever since for the Warriors. This year he has the unique distinction of being the Warriors best passer, rebounder and defender while also knocking down 3s at a 40 percent clip. He also moved Harrison Barnes to small forward and brought former Arizona great Andre Iguodala off the bench to man the second unit. The Golden State never looked back.

“If we win a championship, that will save me from kicking Steve Kerr’s ass for making me come off the bench,” Iguodala said.

Down two games to one, Kerr brought Iguodala back into the lineup and didn’t played Andrew Bogut again in the series, which accomplished two things: First, it made Cleveland Cavaliers center Timofey Mozgov useless, as he could not guard any of the Warriors starters and could be doubled in the post. It also made all four players capable of guarding LeBron James, so pick and rolls were less effective in the process.

When Kerr was sidelined because of a back injury, another former Wildcat, Luke Walton, stepped in as the substitute teacher and unofficially guided the Warriors to a 43-4 before Kerr returned. It is easy to brush it off because of the Warriors’ talent, but under Walton they avoided complacency and improved.

While Tucson may solely be a college basketball town, it can pride itself on the influence it has on the NBA.

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