When it became clear that Gregg Popovich was going to step back as the head coach of Team USA Basketball, it was a huge honor that Steve Kerr was even in discussions to replace him. In sharp contrast to the decades of coaching success of Pop or Mike Krzyzewski, Kerr has been a head coach for less than a decade.
What he has accomplished in that decade is certainly impressive. He and the Golden State Warriors have been to the NBA Finals six times, winning four championships in nine seasons. The 2015-16 Warriors set the record for most wins in a single season, with a 73-9 record, and in 2016-17 they had the best postseason winning percentage in league history with a 16-1 record.
Steve Kerr has an impressive coaching résumé
Now he adds Team USA coach to his ledger, and next summer will be an Olympic coach. That is certainly a major accomplishment, as you don’t get the job without being highly respected, but it’s also an opportunity for him to increase his standing. He’s showing that he can win without Stephen Curry, that his approach to basketball can work with all sorts of players, and that he has the respect of players who commit to his style, rotations and vision.
There could be other benefits to Kerr as well. During his tenure as the head coach of USA Basketball, Mike Krzyzewski built relationships with NBA players that he then used to recruit talent to Duke University. Want to get a player to commit? Dial LeBron James and have him talk to the kid for a minute about what it’s like to play for Coach K.
Many Warrior fans are hopeful that Kerr could build connections with stars around the league and then recruit them to join the Warriors. It’s certainly possible that happens, whether he continues the Wolves-Warriors pipeline by recruiting Anthony Edwards or any of a number of other players suiting up this summer at the World Cup or next year at the Paris Olympics.
The relationship Kerr is building with his players is obvious. While there may have been some light friction with Brandon Ingram, otherwise it seems that this group is really connecting with Kerr and each other. Kerr has spoken glowingly about Jalen Brunson as his on-court leader and recently elevated Josh Hart into the starting lineup after praising his style of play. Could Brunson or Hart be future Warriors?
What if that’s the wrong way to look at the situation, though? What if the bond that Kerr is building with players like Brunson and Hart does serve as a means of recruitment….but instead it’s a recruitment of Kerr to join the teammates on the New York Knicks?
Could Steve Kerr leave the Golden State Warriors for the New York Knicks?
The contracts and salaries of NBA head coaches are not public knowledge in the same way that player contracts are, but it’s widely known that Steve Kerr is entering the final season of his contract with Golden State
That isn’t necessarily a cause for concern; Gregg Popovich just coached on the last year of his deal before signing a new lucrative deal with the San Antonio Spurs this summer. Generally, however, teams and coaches work out an extension prior to this “lame duck” year to prevent both the distraction and the pressure. As of this moment, the Warriors and Kerr have not done that.
It makes sense for Kerr to make one last run with this core, to see if they can win another title at the tail-end of Stephen Curry’s prime. After this year, however, could Kerr follow in the footsteps of Bob Myers and walk away?
If so, the New York Knicks would make some very real sense. Back in 2014, Kerr turned down an offer by the Knicks to accept the head coaching position with the Warriors. It’s not outlandish to think that they will move on from Tom Thibodeau after this season to find a fresh voice, and it’s hard to find a better candidate than Kerr.
Could Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart even now be planting the idea in Kerr’s mind? Even if it’s presented in jest, comments like “if you ever leave the Warriors you could come coach in New York” have a way of planting a seed. Could that seed blossom by the time next summer comes around?
For now, it’s simply a coach finding a similar love for basketball with his players. The pull of a decade with Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson is certainly much stronger than a few weeks with these players on Team USA. Next summer Kerr could be coaching one or more of his Warriors players in Paris (even if Klay doesn’t join them). Still, it’s something to keep an eye on, especially if he starts the season without a new deal.
Eventually, the spark of an idea can fan into a flame. And that flame, on the tip of an Olympic torch, could bring Steve Kerr to the Big Apple.