Steve Kerr will be in the building Tuesday to get his championship ring for the Warriors’ season opener, but he won’t be heading to the bench afterwards.
Warriors general manager Bob Myers announced Saturday that Kerr’s spinal surgery will have him sidelined for longer than initially suspected, and Luke Walton will remain interim head coach for an undetermined amount of time.
The absence explained by Myers as precautionary:
“Once he is back, we want him to stay back.”
The 35-year-old Walton becomes the third person to serve as head coach for the Warriors in three seasons, though this time is clearly different from the departure of Mark Jackson.
All three have one big personal element in common: None had ever served as head coach before.
“We like coaches that have no experience. Mark had none, Steve had none, Luke has none. I guess we don’t value experience around here.”
Golden State’s head of everything basketball made sure to point out that Walton has an NBA pedigree, the respect of the roster, and possibly most important, championship rings.
The son of basketball great Bill Walton, Luke was not highly touted out of high school and went to non-powerhouse University of Arizona, and was drafted in the second round of the 2003 draft.
Save for the 2006-2007 season, Walton was a career reserve who thrived less on natural athleticism and more on basketball intelligence and mental acumen.
Walton served as interim head coach during training camp, but now the games count. That’s the only difference expected from Golden State, says Walton:
“We’re going to prepare the same. We’re going to attack it like we did last year. We’ll have our scouting report. Everything will be very similar to the way we’ve done things since we’ve been up here. Just Steve won’t be on the court here during games.”
Kerr’s health situation is tricky, a herniated disc suffered during the NBA Finals, requiring two surgeries and a leave of absence which started in early October.
The team is approaching it much like it would with a player, day to day and waiting until he’s back 100 percent, unwilling to risk another injury or complication, a la Andrew Bogut.
The Australian big man said:
“Don’t come back until you’re ready, because if you do rush back, that’s not going to help anybody.”
Bogut knows better than anyone about rushing back from injury, he’s done it too often in his career. He played only 12 games in the 2011-2012 season, when he was traded from Milwaukee to Golden State in exchange for shooting guard Monta Ellis.
He missed more than half of the next year, including key time in the postseason, after an expedited return from a various ailments.
His story improved after that, though, and the Warriors made one convincing run into May, and then a championship.
The Warriors took notes, and are treating Kerr’s back in the same fashion they’ve learned to treat Bogut’s ankle. With caution and patience.
Walton continuing as interim head coach was expected, but not guaranteed. The Warriors are without a timetable of any sort for Kerr’s return, enough so that Myers was hesitant to say whether Kerr would return for the second game of the season.
No new coaches will be brought in, and the one’s who don’t travel normally will remain home during road trips.
“We believe in the current staff, we believe in their capabilities. And again, sometimes we get confused, Steve is not gone. I mean, you may not see him on the sidelines. But his voice will still resonate with Luke and the rest of the staff.”