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Steve Kerr believes he would've been “gone in two years” if he had taken the Knicks job


It’s one of those things that, with hindsight, seem absurd, but Steve Kerr truly did have a dilemma when deciding whether to coach the Knicks or the Warriors in 2014. The newly appointed head coach of Team USA was on top of everyone’s coaching wishlist, and the Knicks were the favorites. Why? “Phil Jackson is my guy.”

Talent is everything

We can all say with certainty Steve Kerr made the right call. At the time, the Warriors were a good team, but you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who predicted they'd become one of the most powerful dynasties in NBA history. Steph was an impressive shooter with very concerning ankle issues, Draymond was a positionless guy who couldn't shoot, and Klay Thompson was a shooter with an embargo on dribbling the ball.

The Knicks, I will remind you, finished the '13/'14 season as the 9th team in the East with a 37-45 record. Phil Jackson became the GM of the team in March - nearing the end of that season. A week after the season was over, Jackson fired the entire coaching staff and started courting Kerr. The pitch was simple. The Zen Master as the GM, Carmelo Anthony under contract, it's the Mecca of Basketball, and James Dolan will pay as much as it takes.

“I talked to coaching friends of mine and they all said the same thing. 'Talent is everything‘' It's true. I remember saying 'Phil Jackson is my guy,' and one of my friends said, 'Which job do you think Phil would take?' Uuuufff man, that kind of got me.”

Steve Kerr, The Problem with Jon Stewart podcast

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In the end, one of the things often mentioned was the fact Kerr wanted to be close to family, having spent so much time apart during his playing days. But, even with all the question marks, it was obvious the Warriors had a lot more talent right away, and let's be honest, ownership matters. Joe Lacob and Peter Guber are as willing to spend as much as anyone, and unlike James Dolan, they don't kick out legends of the franchise and season ticket holders out of the arena.

What if?

Kerr coached the Warriors in his first season there, so there weren't a lot of what-ifs in his mind about New York. As tantalizing the Knicks are to everyone, to be the first one to succeed where so many have failed, and to do it in the Big Apple, Kerr has an interesting point of view on his chances had he taken the job.

“Honestly, if I had taken the Knicks job I would've been spun through that cycle and gone in two years. Guaranteed.”

Steve Kerr, The Problem with Jon Stewart podcast

Knowing what we know about Jackson's GM stint, that seems like a very sensible prediction. But I don't think Kerr was aiming at that. His point was more in the direction that a lot of things have to click for a team to succeed, and if they don't, the coach is the obvious first target for change.

Kerr always pointed out the Warriors were primarily a story of player excellence and success. But the fit between coach and players is crucial for a dynasty. Kerr, Curry, Klay, and Draymond all believe basketball is an improvisational game that is rooted in joy. That's not what the Knicks are about, and that's why Golden State was the perfect choice for Steve Kerr.

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