Steve Kerr was formally introduced as the next coach for the USA basketball team after serving as an assistant under Gregg Popovich. During introductory press following the announcement, Kerr doled out praise to all the mentors he's worked with to help him get where he is today -- most notably, Pop.
Kerr on Popovich's impact
Kerr was an assistant for the 2017-21 USA Basketball team, taking part in the team's gold-medal Olympic run in Tokyo and their underwhelming performance at the 2019 FIBA World Cup. He became the first person to win a gold medal as both a coach and a player -- he was a part of the team that won the 1986 World Cup -- in a FIBA senior-level competition.
However, despite his success as a player, especially his iconic stretch with the Chicago Bulls, Kerr will mostly be remembered for his coaching run. And he knows he couldn't have done it by himself. “Sometimes, I look back at my career and wonder how it all happened,” Kerr said. “I’ve had amazing people who guided me and somehow the path continues and I’m not going to stop and think about it too much because I’ll wonder how it happened.”
The big part of how it happened is Gregg Popovich. The two have first started working together in San Antonio while Kerr was still playing. After a four-year run, when they won two championships, Pop and Steve had to wait over a decade to step on the same court, this time on the opposite sides. Once Kerr took over the Warriors head coaching job, the two became conference rivals.
Other than the infamous 2017 WCF, when Golden State's Zaza Pachulia slid under Kawhi Leonard's injured ankle, allowing the Warriors to sweep the Kawhi-less Spurs, Kerr never really faced Pop in a meaningful postseason series. But throughout his entire NBA career, even in-between playing and becoming a coach, he has always looked up to the Spurs legend.
“Having played for him for four seasons and the opportunity to work with him, I learned so much about the game and people and culture,” he said. “A lot of what we do at Golden State is what I learned from Pop. But one thing he taught me is you have to be yourself. You can’t be anyone else, you have to be yourself.”
Pop's footprint on and off the court
When he's being himself, Kerr is a lot like Pop -- high basketball IQ, high level of adaptability, culture-setting personality. Xs and Os wise, it's the same thing -- team-oriented basketball predicated on ball movement and player movement, centered around a superstar individual playing-wise, but everything but a superstar personality-wise.
The Spurs had Tim Duncan; the Warriors have Steph Curry. But as much as they deserve credit for creating two all-time great dynasties, the same praise has to be given to Kerr and Popovich. Especially the latter, who paved the way for the Steve Kerrs of the world. The new USA Basketball head coach recognizes that and hopes to have the same impact on the next generation of basketball coaches.
Every NBA era needs a guy like Gregg Popovich. For the three-point era, that guy is Steve Kerr.