Steph Curry was Mark Jackson’s biggest fan when it became apparent the Warriors are considering to replace him. Curry wasn’t happy with the news and fought for Jackson, but GM Bob Meyers was adamant the team needed a change. They had their sights set on Steve Kerr. Their only problem was – so were the Knicks.
It may seem absurd now, but Kerr was struggling with the choice. His former coach Phil Jackson just became the Knicks GM, and turning the Knicks around is always a tantalizing proposition. The Warriors backup option? Stan Van Gundy. Imagine the alternate version where Kerr goes to New York, and Van Gundy is coaching the Warriors. One of the biggest “what ifs” in recent NBA history. But, Kerr accepted the Warriors job (in large part to be closer to his family), and the rest is history.
One of Kerr’s most significant challenges? Winning Steph Curry over. He had just replaced a coach Steph fought for and brought a different approach to basketball. When asked to compare the two, Curry spoke very highly about Mark Jackson. He pointed out that Jackson raised the young Warriors roster, not just as basketball players but as people. He has an excellent capability to connect and motivate his players.
“He would come into the locker room, and he would go over Xs and Os. But he would spend the last five minutes talking about life. What makes us all different, why we are all in the locker room together. He’d bring it around, and it would make your blood start boiling.”Steph Curry, All The Smoke
Curry said that a young team needed a coach that could do that for them, make them believe they are ready, and able to challenge any team on the court. So when Warriors owners and management decided they want to make a change, Curry’s message was simple.
“You just gotta get the next hire right, because we are in a position here where we can take that next step., you can’t mess it up. Obviously, they got it right.”Steph Curry, All The Smoke
So, how did Kerr win Steph’s trust? Honesty and communication. Kerr can motivate the no.1 guy and the no.15 gut on the roster but never sugarcoat it. If you didn’t play for a while, Kerr would tell you why but empower you to continue working. Curry believes that skill is crucial to make it as a coach and lead a team to a championship.
Steph says it took him a few months to start trusting Curry. He pinpointed the Christmas game when it clicked for him with Kerr. Their new style involved a lot more ball movement and simple plays executed perfectly. Curry said it made him enjoy and love the game even more, particularly as a point guard.
“He’d [Kerr] always say like ‘It’s pretty intuitive what we’re trying to do. We just gotta get the fundamentals and the foundations of it for this year, and then next year when we really got it, when everyone understands where they have to be, and the timing of everything we’re really going to take off.‘ That’s funny ’cause that first year we won the championship.”Steph Curry, All The Smoke
It turned out Kerr was right. That second year, they did get better. Goes to show how you need to be lucky – Jackson was perfect for raising them, Kerr, to help them reach their maximum potential.