OAKLAND, Calif. — It did not take Steve Kerr long to stare up at the championship-level height at which the Golden State Warriors have set their team’s standard and immediately ask that the bar be lowered.
He is only 6 feet 3, after all.
It might not have been what Warriors management expected to hear at Kerr’s introductory press conference on Tuesday as the new Golden State coach. But general manager Bob Myers did cite being “genuine” as one of the new guy’s most admirable traits.
“It is not my goal to win 52 games,” Kerr insisted, not coincidentaly picking a number one higher than the Warriors achieved under recently fired Mark Jackson this past season. “We all know how the NBA works. You can get a couple of breaks and make a nice run. Or you can have a couple of injuries … My goal is to continue the upward trend that the team is on.”
That did not get Jackson a fourth season at the Golden State helm. The team improved from 47 wins in 2012-13 to 51 this past season but made no progress in the standings (landing the sixth seed in the Western Conference playoffs for a second consecutive year) and actually took a step backward (a first-round playoff elimination) in the postseason.
Myers made it clear that expectations are extremely high in 2014-15 even though it will be Kerr’s first as an NBA head coach.
“When you strip it all away, what matters is winning,” he said. “We try to draft players from winning organizations. Steve Kerr can look at a player and show five championship rings. That resonates.
“We want to have winning people in our organization. By winning, we mean winning the last game. Only one team does that. That’s what everybody wants — winning the championship. He (Kerr) is the only guy in our organization that’s done that.”
In fact, the 48-year-old Kerr was a five-time champion in the NBA as a teammate of Michael Jordan on the Chicago Bulls. He also participated in the Final Four at the University of Arizona.
He has never played for a San Francisco Bay Area team, but already is quite aware of the dreams of the organization and its fans.
“This is a very good team,” he said. “A lot of people have said: Do you really want to go to a team with such high expectations? My thought is: It’s better than the opposite. I would much rather have talent end expectations than to be on a losing team and have a lot of rebuilding to do.
“When I talked to (San Antonio Spurs coach) Gregg Popovich, who I consulted during this process, he said throw out the seeds. Doesn’t matter. The Spurs have been the top seed and gotten swept out (of the playoffs). Be consistent. Having a swing at the plate year in and year out — that’s what we want.”
The Warriors took seven swings at the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the playoffs this season. They struck out on the seventh pitch.
The second round of the postseason had barely tipped off before Jackson was fired.
“I don’t think they failed. They had a good season,” the TNT analyst said in the presence of Warriors owner Joe Lacob, who made the ultimate call on the coaching change. “They took the Clippers to seven games. If they win the last two minutes (of Game 7), then the season is considered a success. Sometimes your season comes down to one minute or one shot.
“If some people want to look at the season as a failure, I don’t look at it that way. I look at it as a success.”
Coincidentally, Kerr pointed to Clippers coach Doc Rivers as someone who helped develop a map for what might make the Warriors a better team next season.
“That’s what the best teams in the league do — they balance offense and defense,” Kerr said. “Doc Rivers did a real good job with the Clippers. He got his team to run more and at the same time defend the 3-point line better. That’s the balance we want to achieve.”
Kerr, whose 26 years in and around the NBA include eight as a broadcaster, believes his work behind the mike will help him succeed as a head coach. That said, he plans to hire an assistant with head-coaching experience.
Interestingly, with the Warriors recently linked possibly to having an interest in trading for Minnesota Timberwolves standout Kevin Love, Kerr admitted the only personnel suggestion he has made to Golden State management is to pursue a “stretch 4” (perimeter-shooting power forward).
“That’s not my job,” he said when asked if he were involved in any internal talks regarding Love. “I have enough to do.”
And do it with the weight of a 39-year championship drought squarely on his shoulders. It is easy to see why Kerr would think that bar looks awfully high.
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