Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry has solidified himself as the greatest Warrior of all time. He's won 4 championship rings, 2 MVPs, and 1 Finals MVP and is the undisputed greatest shooter in basketball history.
But before Curry made a name for himself in the league, he had a rough sophomore year with Golden State. During his second year, Steph and his former coach Keith Smart bumped heads a lot. Smart didn't buy into Curry's promising potential — which, now looking back, doesn't sound like intelligent coaching at all.
Jeremy Lin witnessed it all
In 2010, Jeremy Lin went undrafted but was picked up by the Warriors. At that time, Golden State was still rebuilding and hoped Smart's leadership would pave the way to develop the team and its players. But ironically, at that time, Smart didn't believe in Curry, and according to Lin, the franchise player was often yelled at, benched during the 4th quarter, and reprimanded back in the day.
"I was with him [Curry] during my rookie year. The coach that we had didn't believe that much in Steph and would bench him a lot, get on him, yell at him a lot, was just really tough on him," Lin told Sky Sports. "It almost became normal that every fourth quarter, he would get benched for a certain stretch. I felt that would shake any player to some degree and even though his confidence would kind of waver a little bit – because of the way that he was being coached – he had a deep, deep, very strong belief that he was a great player and that he would become a great player, and that the way things were going at that time was not how they were always going to go," Lin added.
Yikes, looking back, this seems like horrible coaching from Smart. Although, in fairness to the former Warriors coach, it was clear that Curry wasn't a fully developed player in his second year. He averaged 18.6 points, 5.8 assists, and 1.5 steals a game in 74 games. Curry lacked the size, physical tools, and skillset to merit more playing time from Smart - particularly on defense.
The Warriors made the right choice
Both Curry and Lin were still raw and young in 2010, but Smart didn't believe in them enough to develop them. On the flip side, at least both Curry and Lin didn't stop working on their crafts, as they ended up eventually making a name for themselves years after. After a disappointing season (36-46) with coach Smart, the Warriors decided to move on from him and hire Mark Jackson.
Jackson spent 4 years as Golden State's head coach, and although he didn't triumph in the organization (he was fired in 2014), he still played a massive role in developing Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. That was the most significant difference between Jackson and Smart.
It's unfortunate how Smart approached Curry in his sophomore season, but the credit goes to the latter and the Warriors for trusting the process. It's also another lesson that in the NBA, you must go through a trial and error phase with coaches to identify which one best fits the culture and believes in the franchise's cornerstone player as much as the ownership does.