Steve Kerr, the reigning NBA Coach of the Year, has not been on the Golden State Warriors bench since the second game of the first round of the playoffs. And that is unlikely to change with Thursday’s Finals Game 1.
“He does seem like he’s getting better, but I’m going to keep coaching until he says he can. … He hasn’t told me either way right now.”
Kerr told Bay Area News Group’s Tim Kawakami that his decision will involve the impact on his team as well as himself:
“I think just, it’s the Finals, there’s going to be a spotlight, is it a distraction? Is it another storyline? Do we need to deal with all that? I don’t know. Ultimately I don’t think I can worry about that. I’ve got to play it by ear – if I’m feeling good I should coach and if I’m not feeling up to it, then I shouldn’t. And it’s that simple.”
Brown, however, has not filled in with wide eyes and a bushy tail. In fact, he boasts more head coaching experience than Kerr, who has helmed the Warriors now for three years in his first stint as a head coach. Brown, on the other hand, has spent parts of eight seasons as an NBA head coach, summing up about seven full seasons in the position, even claiming his own NBA Coach of the Year award in 2009.
Brown also brings some Finals experience, having coached the same Cleveland Cavaliers franchise now tasked with beating the favorite Warriors into a Finals appearance in 2007.
Brown, LeBron James and the Cavs lost that series to the San Antonio Spurs. But, after a 61-win season and an early ousting in the playoffs, Brown was fired after the 2009-10 season. So, will that fuel him should he be making the big decisions on the floor during the Finals? If you believe the calm demeanor he carried on Media Day, absolutely not.
He told Cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon that he’s just “Extremely happy to be in the Finals”:
“I’m not looking at this as, Cleveland fired me twice this is time to get back at them. … No, I just want to win, I don’t care who it is.”
As he also pointed out, Brown carries zero advantages into this zeroes, as the current Cleveland roster has little in common with the one he last led to a 33-49 record in the 2013-14 season — when James was winning his second of two titles with the Miami Heat.
Given the depth of the Golden State coaching staff, including Brown and defensive wizard Ron Adams, it is also hard to call Kerr’s absence an utter disadvantage. Sure, Kerr is worthy of the praise and accolades which have been bestowed upon him — he came into a hostile environment of the Warrior locker room and replaced a beloved coach immediately carrying a blossoming team to the peak of the game. But the level of talent on the roster and wisdom in the coach’s office, allows for some breathing room when he is absent.
A season ago, when Kerr was removed from the equation following the back surgery which the effects of have now sidelined him, then assistant coach Luke Walton filled in for the first 43 games of the season. In that stretch, the current Los Angeles Lakers man-in-charge led the Dubs to a 39-4 record.
But, like he does now, Kerr remained involved, according to Brown, who told Greg Logan of Newsday that Kerr continues to be a constant in and around Oracle Arena:
“We communicate all the time. Even when we’re not together, we’re on the phone at least twice a day. When he’s here during games, he’s in the locker room before the games talking strategy. … He’ll address the team at half time, and even at the end of games. We just kind of play off each other.”
As Kerr told Kawakami, though, Brown’s growth within the flow of the Warrior gameplan throughout the season has led to his not needing the big boss’s constant presence:
“I think Mike over the course of the year has really figured that out and he’s done a great job with it – since the playoffs started – of calling plays at the right time, making substitutions at a really good time, what he’s saying to the team, what he’s not saying.
“And he’s done a great job of navigating an awkward situation, where I’m still the head coach, but he’s got to do what he thinks is right. And I’m not out there with him.”