Phil Jackson, Steve Kerr Discuss How the NBA Handles Social and Political Issues

Charlotte Carroll
Sports Illustrated

Coaches Phil Jackson and Steve Kerr were interviewed and asked each other questions on social issues, coaching philosophies and more for The California Sunday Magazine.

Kerr, whose been a vocal critic of President Donald Trump, was asked how things have changed for NBA personnel to be vocal with their views.

"First of all, I think the times have changed, and the times call for it," Kerr said. "... I think where the NBA’s gone right is the leadership works closely with the players, whereas the NFL has conjured up ways to create this false patriotism and pandered to their fan base, and they can’t really figure out what to do, whether the players should stand or kneel. Whereas the NBA got out in front of all of it just by being partners with the players and being pretty upfront and outspoken themselves, going back to the Donald Sterling stuff a few years ago and really beyond."

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Jackson similarly brought up societal issues when asked about what it takes to be more of a mentor instead of just a coach. He brought up the time Scottie Pippen was found with a gun in his car.

"The team had a talk about guns and about why," Jackson said. "Who carries guns? Are you afraid? Are you being protective? Guns bring their own violence. So many things happen in our society because the anger’s too hard to contain for a lot of individuals, and if they have a gun, they use it. We talked about Gandhi’s influence ... We were dealing with that because that’s part of our game: to come in with anger but turn it in a different way, that you are a warrior, but you don’t have to be a warrior that’s about killing people or harming people .... We have these opportunities to coach, and you can either turn away from it or deal with it."

In addition to talking about their philosophies, each talked about some of the "phenomenal players" they've coached. Jackson named Kobe Bryant, while Kerr mentioned Stephen Curry.

Kerr also addressed his health, saying he is doing better but isn't "100% still." Kerr had back surgery in 2015 and dealt with complications. Then in 2017, he had a spinal cord leak procedure and missed most of the playoffs due to complications with his rehab from back surgery.

Jackson led two teams to 11 NBA championships—the most in NBA history. Kerr has won three titles with the Warriors in four years.

Similar to Jackson with the Bulls and Lakers, Kerr has established a dynasty with Golden State and is in line to win another championship this season.

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