Steve Kerr: The Warriors' Ringmaster
Fraser, nicknamed Q because he asks so many questions, met Kerr when they were sophomores at Arizona. Fraser set him up with Margot. They went on a double date, two basketball players and two Kappas, to Lunt Avenue Marble Club in Tucson. Fraser and Kerr remain best friends, and last summer they met every morning for berry scones at Fournee Bakery, where they sat on wooden benches across from the Berkeley Tennis Club courts. “I’d love to run the triangle,” Kerr, a Phil Jackson disciple, told Fraser, “but I don’t want to be too drastic.” He settled on a motion offense that emphasizes body and ball movement, along with a frenetic defense that switches almost every pick-and-roll, set under a boisterous big top. Down came the posters in the training facility dedicated to former Golden State All-Stars and up went pictures of current players yelling, hugging, high-fiving. Hip‑hop and classic rock provided the soundtrack at practice, and some sessions were canceled entirely, in favor of bowling tournaments and football games. Video sessions were interrupted with embarrassing old clips of coaches: Walton blowing a layup, Jarron Collins lumbering through a fast break, Kerr and Fraser performing a rap. “It’s a complete circus,” says forward Draymond Green.
After graduation Kerr was headed to play basketball at Cal State–Fullerton, until Arizona coach Lute Olson stopped by the Pali gym in the summer of ’83. Olson was with his wife, Bobbi, and they watched a pickup game. At the end Olson asked her about the spindly guard with the sniper shot. “You’ve got to be kidding,” Bobbi replied. But Olson had just left Iowa, inheriting a Wildcats roster that went 4–24. He could not be picky.
That’s his standard line, except it doesn’t hold up anymore, not after 20-plus years of incredible bounces. “I only have one explanation,” says Nick U’Ren, Kerr’s special assistant. “I think the universe takes care of people like this. If you are good to others, it comes back around.” In Phoenix, Kerr worked with David Griffin, now the Cavaliers’ GM. “Basketball was the sum total of my life,” Griffin says. “I threw myself into the job to such a degree that I had absolutely no balance whatsoever. Steve made me understand, ‘You don’t have anything to prove.’ He made me comfortable living in a way that was meaningful to me. He made me a radically better human being.” One night, when the Suns were on the road, Kerr discovered that Griffin was watching from home instead of the office. “I’m so proud of you,” he told him.