The Golden State Warriors wanted Steve Kerr from the start but still wondered about his ability to coach. Kerr had his own questions for the Warriors before being convinced to take the job, notably what led to the bitter divorce between the team and Mark Jackson.
Both got the answers that they had hoped for.
Now each is counting on even better results to follow.
The Warriors introduced Kerr as their new coach Tuesday at a packed news conference at the team's downtown Oakland headquarters. Kerr signed with the Warriors for five years and about $25 million US after rejecting an offer from mentor Phil Jackson to coach the New York Knicks.
"I'm convinced Phil is going to make it work in New York, but when I sat down with the Warriors, it just clicked," Kerr said. "I think it's the right fit for me."
Kerr plans to finish his duties broadcasting the Western Conference finals for TNT before starting with the Warriors.
The former NBA guard cited Golden State's rapid rise the past three seasons and his family in California as his main reasons for taking the job. He replaces Mark Jackson, who was fired by the Warriors on May 6 after a 51-win season and back-to-back playoff appearances in large part because of his sour relationship with team management.
Warriors general manager Bob Myers said the team identified Kerr and former Miami Heat and Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy at the beginning of their search. He said Kerr already was too deep in talks with the Knicks, where Phil Jackson took over as team president in March.
"We were really just hoping to get an interview with Steve. And he rebuffed us in a very polite way," Myers said, chuckling.
Then Van Gundy agreed to a $35 million, five-year deal with Detroit last week to coach the Pistons and oversee basketball operations. Shortly thereafter, Kerr's agent, Mike Tannenbaum, called the Warriors and asked for a meeting.
Myers, Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob, assistant GM Kirk Lacob, and director of player personnel Travis Schlenk met with Kerr for more than three hours last Tuesday in Oklahoma City, where Kerr was calling the Thunder-Clippers game. Myers and Lacob said the team's biggest questions were about Kerr's lack of coaching experience, which he outlined during a PowerPoint presentation.
"He blew our socks off," Lacob said. "Steve Kerr and Bob Myers together is my dream team. That is a dream team."
Kerr still had questions about why Jackson was fired after improving in each of his three seasons. He said it was refreshing to hear Lacob and Myers both admit mistakes, which he could relate to from his time as general manager of the Phoenix Suns from 2007-10.
"I felt like I got a lot of clarity on the circumstances on the situation," Kerr said, declining to elaborate.
Kerr, 48, helped Arizona to its first Final Four appearance in 1988. He won three titles for Phil Jackson in Chicago and another two under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio during his 15-year NBA playing career.
Kerr's former coach at Arizona, Lute Olson, sat in the front row at his news conference. Lacob and Warriors co-owner Peter Guber also sat in the front row alongside Kerr's wife, Margot, and two of their three children, Nick and Madeline, who plays volleyball nearby at the University of California, Berkeley.
The Warriors had a video display of "Kerr's Legendary Coaches," showing pictures of Jackson, Popovich, Olson, Lenny Wilkens and Cotton Fitzsimmons. Kerr said he will take the knowledge and experience from them — and other coaches he met with before games as a TNT broadcaster — and employ them with the Warriors.
Kerr said his system will have principles of the Triangle Offense that won Jackson an NBA-record 11 titles as coach of the Bulls and Lakers but "will not be the Bulls of the 1990s." He said it will be more tailored to suit star Stephen Curry's pick-and-roll abilities while adding some of the off-the-ball movement the Spurs do so well.
Kerr has yet to hire a staff. He said he reached out to every Warriors player — almost all of whom publicly said they wanted Jackson to return — and has spoken with all but two of them so far. He said the feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive.
"I think they're excited to get back to work," Kerr said. "And I'm excited to get started."