OAKLAND – Warriors coach Steve Kerr has spent a full 20 years sharing an NBA throne with such Bulls legends as Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson.
That could change Wednesday night, when Kerr has the opportunity to claim the seat for himself while being joined by a whole new cast of teammates.
Kerr was a member of the Chicago team that in 1995-96 went 72-10, the best record in league history.
He’s now coaching the Warriors team that is 72-9 as it takes the floor at Oracle Arena to face the Memphis Grizzlies. A Warriors victory in the season finale would mean Kerr the coach is replaces Kerr the player in the record book.
“I never thought anybody would ever come close to breaking this record when I was lucky enough to be part of it 20 years ago,” Kerr said before the game. “I’m shocked that we are where we are, just because of how difficult it is.
“More than anything, I’m proud of our guys for laying it all out there, all season long, for putting themselves out there and trying to achieve something that’s never been done before – but more importantly, something that is truly great. It’s amazing that our guys have been able to put themselves in this position.”
Though Kerr, then in his seventh year, was a backup guard for the Bulls and never started a game that season, he averaged 24 minutes a game off the bench. Kerr and Jordan were the only to Bulls to play all 82 games that season. He shot 51.5 percent from 3-point distance, making 122 of 237 attempts.
And he still recalls the feeling of Chicago surpassing the previous wins record of 69, set by the Lakers in 1971-72.
“I’ll never forget that night in Milwaukee when we broke that record and got to 70 wins,” Kerr said. “That was one of the highlights of my career, just an amazing accomplishment for that group.”
Kerr had previously danced around the topic of the Warriors winning 73 games, but he’s fully aware some of this players have been vocal about achieving the record.
“It’s different as a player,” Kerr said. “You talk about it more. We literally hardly ever talked about it this year, as a staff. But the players talk all the time. We talked about it all the time 20 years ago when it came within range and it was a tangible goal.”
And now, two decades later, Kerr is back in a familiar position. Instead of taking jumpers, he’s drawing up plays and calling timeouts.
“The main difference,” he said, “is you get to watch a group of players who you’re responsible for, who you’re trying to help, and you get to see the joy on their faces. It really is about them; they’re the ones doing all the work. The staff is just trying to put them in the best position to succeed.
“And when they do succeed and do something special, it means a lot.”
When the Warriors visited President Barack Obama at the White House in February, Obama, a longtime Bulls fans, joked about the Warriors possibly supplanting his favorite team. Kerr, of course, had the perfect response.
Either way, he said, he wins.