Steve Kerr doesn’t know if he’ll coach again this season. But he’s damn sure he’ll coach again.
The man who led the Golden State Warriors to the 2015 NBA championship and to a 67-win campaign this season hasn’t stalked the sideline since Game 2 of the Warriors’ opening-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers, as he has battled pain related to the 2015 back surgery that caused him to miss the first 43 games of the 2015-16 season. His absence hasn’t derailed the Dubs, who have rolled up 10 straight wins under interim head coach Mike Brown to win their third straight Western Conference championship and enter their 2017 NBA Finals matchup with the rival Cleveland Cavaliers undefeated in the 2017 postseason.
It has, however, caused uncertainty, with every status report and health update — from back at practice (no return imminent) to traveling with the team (no return imminent) to breaking down film and taking part in coaches’ meetings (no return imminent) — leaving us wondering not just when the 51-year-old Kerr might make it back to the bench, but whether he’ll get there.
“Beyond these playoffs, though, it is easy to wonder how much longer Kerr wants to balance the recurring back pain and headaches and nausea against the coaching life,” wrote Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical last month.
Tim Kawakami of the Bay Area News Group sat down with Kerr on Tuesday, and reports that the coach “is clearly feeling better than he has since he left the team in late-April,” but that Kerr is “still not close to 100 percent,” leaving his status for the Finals up in the air. Looking beyond this season, though, Kerr was adamant that he’s not finished yet:
-Q: I’ll ask you now: Can you say that you definitely will coach again at some point?
-KERR: Hell yeah.
You know, it’s a little trickier, since this has been going on. I sort of assumed all last year that by the summer I’d get this thing knocked out.
It’s been kind of a mystery and that’s what so frustrating. But I have every intention to coach for a long time. It’s scary stuff and still hoping for a better resolution to it.
-Q: No matter what happens in the Finals, will you be coaching the start of next regular season?
-KERR: That’s the plan. But what’s the date–it’s May 30. I can’t promise anything, neither can [Warriors general manager] Bob [Myers]. We have to figure everything out this summer.
It’s a very unique situation, a very difficult situation for me personally and for Bob and [Warriors owner] Joe [Lacob]. It’s probably unprecedented.
One thing I know is that we’ll all work together. They’re going to want to do what’s best for me, I’m going to want to do what’s best for them. We’ll figure out whatever that is.
As confident as Kerr is that he’ll return to coaching at some point, he’s not willing to compromise his health to push for that return to come during these Finals, even if there’s no place in the world he’d rather be than leading Golden State into its third straight matchup with the Cavs.
“We’re doing fine without me,” Kerr told Kawakami. “Honestly, I don’t think it’ll matter too much to the team. I think the team will be fine no matter what we do […] 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.”
It sounds simple, but clearly, resolving the matter is anything but. And so, we wait to find out if Kerr will end his six-week absence during the most vital time of the NBA year, or whether we’ll have to wait until next fall — or longer — for the return that he insists will come.
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