Steve Kerr brings toughness to the Warriors Through a Heartbreaking Past:

kerr_family
Steve Kerr, his 3 siblings and his mom and dad

Whenever change comes to a professional team there are always extremes when it comes to fan reaction. You have some fans who think every move is a good one and all will be great, and you have others that think the sky is about to fall and that all is lost.   Thankfully some fans wait to see what actually happens. The Steve Kerr hiring as the Golden State Warriors coach elicited all of those reactions.

After listening to local talk shows and sportscasters giving their two cents, some have questioned whether the toughness that Mark Jackson seemed to bring will be lost with the more calmer and people oriented Steve Kerr.   In all honesty, there are few tougher than Steve Kerr.

Steve Kerr grew up the son of Malcolm and Ann Kerr; brilliant parents; with Malcolm having an extreme love for the middle east. The Kerr’s were a part of 3 generations of world travelers with Steve actually spending his freshman year in high school in Cairo, Egypt.   Eventually in time, Malcolm finally got his dream job which was president of the American University in Beirut.

Steve through luck, circumstance, and calls from his father to Lute Olson, finally got a scholarship offer from coach Olson and the University of Arizona.   Olson didn’t think much of Kerr as a player, but to have such a great character guy on the team was something he wanted.

Malcolm couldn’t wait to see his son play. When Steve and the family met in Beirut for the Christmas of 1983, Malcolm got to see grainy film of his son play for Arizona. His eyes lit up. It was a dream for him to see Steve play college ball, and you couldn’t wipe the smile off of his face if you tried.

But in the early morning hours of January 18, 1984, Steve got a phone call that would change his life forever. Islamic terrorists had ambushed his father in Beirut and shot him execution style. His crime?   Being American. His mom Ann said, “for us 9/11 started on 1/18/1984.” It ended the life of one of the worlds kindest and most understanding souls and a friend to the Arab world. The rest of his family was thankfully unharmed.

Two days after his fathers death, Steve came off the bench against Arizona St.   His first shot was a long three that hit nothing but net. Lute Olsen and many others in the crowd had tears in their eyes. As Lute Olsen pointed out, “we had so many emotions going on that night that it was hard to keep the feelings inside”. The Arizona fans were so touched by Steve that it was like they held him in their arms. After Steve would make a basket, the P.A. announcer would yell “STEVE KERR” which was always followed by the crowd repeating, “STEVE KERR”.

Steve worked hard and moved up the ladder and helped make the Wildcats one of the best teams in the country. In his senior season though, one of the ugliest things from a college crowd was seen on the road in Tempe against rival Arizona St.  Before the game during warm ups, students started to taunt Steve.  They began chanting “where’s your daddy” and “PLO, PLO”. Some even told him to go see his dad in Beirut.   It was so ugly that some Arizona St. students came down to the bench to apologize to Kerr.

People wondered why the PLO chant was yelled out because the PLO had nothing to do with it, but no one said all college students are very bright. (I think Tempe has more bars per capita than any other city in the country so that tells you something.)

Kerr was overwhelmed. He began to shake and tears filled his eyes. He sat on the bench and his teammates comforted him.   He later said he could not believe people could be so cruel and he became really upset. His teammate Tom Tolbert said it was the only time he ever thought of going into the stands to hit a fan. After regaining his composure, Kerr played his heart out. He was 6-6 from 3 point range and had 20 points at the half and ended with 22 in a 28 point thrashing of their rivals.

When Steve Kerr was chosen in the second round by the Phoenix Suns, few thought Steve would stick with anyone in the NBA. He was considered a journeyman at best who never really found a nitch until he was picked up by the Chicago Bulls. With the Bulls he had a role and he played it well. He was smart, tough, and could shoot in the clutch. In game 2 in the championship series against the Jazz, Kerr missed a 3 pointer but got the rebound and made a great pass to Michael Jordan who made a key 3 point play. In the clinching game, he broke the tie after Michael passed to him as he drained a 3.

At the end of his time with the Bulls, Kerr again found a home at San Antonio. He played the same role that he did in Chicago; make clutch shots and do the little things that win games. After his unlikely career was over, Kerr had 5 titles.   That was 2 more than Larry Bird, and 3 more than Wilt Chamberlain.

He had mixed reviews as a young GM for the Phoenix Suns, including the Shaquille Oneal trade, but he was professional and calm and never shied away from criticism. He later moved into sports casting.

When people talk about Steve Kerr today, they use terms like hard working, winner, and he HATES to lose. Kerr said the only game that he really can’t get over is the final four loss to Oklahoma in the NCAA playoffs when he was only 2 for 12 from 3 point range in an 8 point loss.

Part of his strength is that Steve has his parents charm and heart.   He gets along with people and is honest and caring. He likes to be underestimated by using an aw shucks mentality all the while he is ambitious, smart and competitive to a fault. All his life he’s been told he’s not going to make it but in the end he always seems to succeed and do it with a smile.

The first thing Steve wanted to do before he met with the local media is to meet with the Warriors employees. No not the players; he wanted to meet everyone. He wanted to meet people in marketing, and who worked the ticket sales and the offices. He wanted to meet the people behind the scenes. He also didn’t just call Stephen Curry; he called all of the players and talked to them. He was humble and respectful in a way his dad would be proud of.  He actually is thinking of going to Australia to meet with Andrew Bogut.

Will Steve Kerr be a good coach for the Warriors, especially with the nitpicking type of atmosphere that has been created by the microscope that is social media? I think so. I love the hire.  I know one thing though. The Warriors will be tough, smart, and hard working. They will have a coach that will answer questions and not shy away from criticism. In Kerr they have someone that will demand professionalism and smart play and defense which will take the Warriors to the next level.   I still think they are a player away from doing something special, but adding Steve Kerr as their head coach is a great move.

There hasn’t been this much excitement in Oakland since the Run TMC days.  So go ahead and underestimate Steve Kerr. Go ahead and be fooled by his choir boy demeanor.  In reality this guy is as tough as nails.  And somewhere above you still can’t wipe the smile off of his proud father Malcolm’s face.

 

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