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A Conversation with Steve Kerr at the 15th Annual Sixth Street Offsite

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Steve Kerr has won nine NBA championships as a member of three different dynasties: as Head Coach of the Golden State Warriors and as a player for the San Antonio Spurs and Chicago Bulls.

Earlier this month at the Sixth Street Offsite, he was gracious enough to spend time with our team and talk about what he’s learned over the course of his career.

His conversation with Sixth Street’s David Stiepleman covered Steve’s approach to leadership, culture, and performing at the highest level of his craft, including what he was thinking when Michael Jordan gave him the ball for the go-ahead shot in Game 6 of the 1997 NBA Finals.

Steve’s message to aspiring leaders was clear: be genuine. “You can’t be anyone but yourself. Your players will see right through it.”

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Episode Transcript:

David Stiepleman: Hi everybody. It's our fireside chat. No fire, one hopes. Hi.

Steve Kerr: Hi.

David Stiepleman: Thanks for being here.

Steve Kerr: Thanks for having me.

David Stiepleman: I'm going to introduce you, which is completely unnecessary but I'm going to do it anyway.

David Stiepleman: Say hi to Steve Kerr. Bulls fans and Warriors fans and everybody fans. He’s head coach of the Golden State Warriors. It's a basketball team. Steve played 15 seasons in the NBA, known as one of the most accurate three-point shooters in history. If you’re even a passing sports fan, the following is staggering. Nine-time NBA champion, five times as a player, three with the Bulls, two with the Spurs, and four as the coach of the Warriors. The NBA named you one of the 15 greatest coaches in history. Not bad. But you're not even done so it may be premature. You just signed on for another couple years with Golden State, and this summer you’re heading to Paris to be the coach of team USA, the men's national team. Thank you for being here. We're so happy to have you here.

David Stiepleman: We literally haven't said anything yet, but they're clapping already. It's pretty cool. When some guy like me reads off that resume, it sounds inevitable, this inevitable march to greatness, very linear. Not at all linear, it never is for anybody, it really wasn't for you. And you've been hanging out with us for the morning and so you know in this room is our team. We talk about our firm, we talk about how we invest, we have this much capital, blah, blah, blah, but it's the minds and, importantly, the hearts of everybody in this room that's really the business. And we're very long making sure that we can evaluate talent. Take a bunch of steps back, whether from high school to college or from college to the pros – it was not at all inevitable that you'd be doing any of those steps. And what was that like, and what did they miss?

Steve Kerr: I guess I could tell you that I finished my senior year of high school without a scholarship offer. And so if I had thought then that somehow I would be part of nine championship teams in the NBA, I would've thought you were nuts. I think what I've learned, over time, both as a player and as a coach is that people develop at different rates. There are different opportunities. Some people are luckier than others. You land in a certain situation. There's all kinds of luck and good fortune that goes into life. But we misevaluate talent constantly in the NBA. I recently heard that half of the players in the NFL are undrafted – half of them – which is shocking. I think when you're young you feel like, “Oh my gosh, I’ve got to be noticed,” and look at all these amazing people out there. “How can I ever do that?” And then you get older, and you realize there's so many different pathways to get there. But it does require preparation. It does require some luck, but it requires a willingness to work and to communicate and to learn and to never stop that process.

David Stiepleman: One of the things that I remarked on as I was thinking about your path is, as you were finishing your time at Arizona. I think in your last year, you guys were in the final four, pretty successful. And you weren't even thinking about an NBA career necessarily. And then you're like I’m going to do this, I'm going to hang on for a year or two. Managing your own career and working it, you realized that the things that got you to that point weren't going to keep you there. What was that realization process like, for example, working on your shot. You were a pretty good shooter, but you deconstructed your shot in your first or second season. What was that all about?

Steve Kerr: To be honest, I never really thought about playing in the NBA. I thought about playing in college. My dad was a professor at UCLA, so I grew up going to Pauley Pavilion when UCLA was right in that heyday of winning national championships year after year after year. So I walked into Pauley Pavilion, probably in 1972. Bill Walton was playing for UCLA. I walked in there and I immediately thought, “This is where I want to be.” It was incredible. The colors, the sites, the band, the emotion of the crowd, it just grabbed me instantly. I just loved sports back then. We played every sport. It's not like now where you specialize 12 straight months, which is another topic, I think it's terribly unhealthy. But back then you just played whatever sport, so I played everything, and I loved sports, and I never really thought about what I wanted to do for a living. I just did stuff that I enjoyed.

David Stiepleman: And when you got to the NBA and you're like this isn't working, what did you do?

Steve Kerr: Starting in my sophomore/junior year in high school, I really started to focus on basketball. I worked hard at it wanting to play college basketball. Eventually at the last second, I got a scholarship to Arizona. And once I got there I had the coaching and the training and the facilities to really put a lot of work into it. And as I got more and more successful it became an obsession. And I just thought, well I'll coach. I'm going to stay in basketball. I didn't think I would play in the NBA, so I just thought, this is what I want to do. I love the game. I love being on a team, and I just figured I'd coach. But I kept working to play and to get better, and it's kind of worked out.

David Stiepleman: Your coach in college, Lute Olson, the legendary Lute Olson, said that he knew you were a smart player.

Steve Kerr: That's code for slow. If they say you're smart, that just means you're slow.

David Stiepleman: He didn't see anything else in you?

Steve Kerr: He saw that I could shoot. This was pre-analytics days, but coaches still understood that the ball has to go through the hoop. They just didn't understand the value of the two-point shot versus the three. But they recognize that it had to go in. And so I could really shoot, but I had a lot of other areas of my game that I had to develop in order to survive out there.

David Stiepleman: Now you're in the league, let's call it like four or five years. You started with the Suns, you went to the Cavaliers, then you're at the Heat. It's ‘92ish, or ’93, and the Chicago Bulls had just won the championship. And you're sitting in Miami or wherever you're sitting thinking, I actually think that's the team that I should be on. Can you walk us through your thinking. This is higher level personal strategic thinking. What was it all about?

Steve Kerr: Well it was kind of a technical thing, but I watched the Bulls play. They had a guy named John Paxson, who older basketball fans will remember well. They ran this offense that nobody else ran. It was called The Triangle Offense. And I watched from afar, and I thought, “I could be John Paxson. That's the guy that I could emulate.” Similar skillset, similar size. He was a much better player than I was, but he was somebody I thought, “that's where my skill would really fit.” And it just so happened that he was retiring that year, and the Bulls were looking for somebody to play that role. So I went there and I basically tried out for the team. I didn't have any guarantee at all. It was just a tryout. And I made it and it was the perfect fit, and that stint in Chicago changed my entire life.

David Stiepleman: Talk about that. About how it changed your life – I have an idea.

Steve Kerr: I flourished as a player because of the things I talked about. I fit right in to their style. And then Michael Jordan decided to come back. When I went there, he was playing baseball. He had left and retired. When he came back that's when my life changed, because we won three championships in a row as a result of his return. And being along for that ride, just like being along for this ride with the Warriors, being along for the ride with the Spurs. When you win, people notice, and you meet people, and things happen, and the ball starts rolling – literally. Until that point with Chicago I was just kind of trying to survive and hang on to a career for as long as I could. And then that's when everything changed when I was part of championship teams.

David Stiepleman: I know everybody asks you to tell this story. It's ‘97, the last shot in game seven against Utah. And I want to ask you a larger point about that. For the person who's been under a rock and doesn't know that story, can you just tell that. Maybe people don't know that story, but it's an incredible story about being in the huddle, deciding what's going to happen on the last play of the season.

Steve Kerr: Well, it was game six, not game seven. If it was game seven I don't know if I would've had the guts to take the shot.

David Stiepleman: That’s big of you to admit that.

Steve Kerr: We were playing Utah, and earlier in the series in a similar situation, John Stockton, who was guarding me, had gone over and double-teamed Michael Jordan, had stolen the ball and they beat us. This was game three or something. And so similar situation, tied score with about 20 seconds left, and we had a timeout and the cameras actually captured it. They were kind of in the huddle basically. And Michael turned to me and said, “Be ready. Stockton's going to come double team.” So I put on a brave face, and said, “Oh, I'll be ready.”

Steve Kerr: *Please go in. Please go in.* It's the moment every kid dreams of. I literally had that moment in my driveway a thousand times. You count it down, game winning shot. You play it out in your head, “5, 4, 3, 2, 1.” You shoot. If you miss in your driveway you pretend you got fouled and you have two free throws to then try to win the game. To this day it's the most surreal moment, because it was literally something that I had played out in my head a thousand times. But every young basketball player does it. I actually got to live it. So what an incredible moment.

David Stiepleman: It is incredible. Let me take a step back. At some point before this, you were exploring what I think you've called the mind-body connection, and getting out of your own way. And you called yourself an overthinker. Was that part of this? It had to have been part of this. Can you talk about that? Pretending to be Jeff Hornacek in practice. What's that all about?

Steve Kerr: I was always an overthinker. I think the hardest thing about being an athlete is to combine the mind and body to integrate your talent into an emotional space where you can just find the best version of yourself without thinking. It's the zone people talk about. But how do you get there? For me, as I climbed the ladder and got into these higher leverage situations, I was thinking too much early in my career. So I found a book through a friend of mine called, “The Inner Game of Tennis.” It's a book I have 10 copies of on my shelf right now in my office. I buy 10 every year and give them away to people.

Steve Kerr: The whole book is about combining the mind and the body. The author is a guy named Tim Gallwey, and he was a tennis coach. In the first chapter, he says, “I'm watching a tennis match, and the player who's right in front of me is talking to himself. After every bad shot he's saying, ‘you idiot,’ ‘what are you doing?’” And he said, “I thought to myself, who's he talking to?” He said, “I realize there's two of us. There's the conscious and the subconscious.” He calls it self-one and self-two. And he developed this whole philosophy, as a tennis coach, of finding ways to combine self-one and self-two, to integrate them to the point where you can be the best version of yourself. The book is fascinating. And so one of the suggestions it had was to take a practice session or a tennis match and pretend you're the best player in the world.

Steve Kerr: Pretend for a second you’re not Joe Smith, you’re Björn Borg, John McEnroe, Lendl, Djokovic. And so I read that and I’m like alright “I'm going to go to practice today and I'm going to be Jeff Hornacek,” who was an all-star version of me in the NBA. Much better player, but my size, similar game, but way better. And he played for Utah, he played for Phoenix. I just thought, “I'm going to be him for a day.” I had by far my best practice of the year. I was killing it out there. And practice ended and I thought, “How pathetic is that? I had to pretend to be somebody else, to be the best version of me.” It made no sense, but it did in the context of the book, and in thinking about how we get wrapped up in results instead of process. And I've used that book for my whole life now, just to remind myself you’ve got to get lost in all of this. You've got to give your body and your mind a chance to be free and not be so attached to results and judgment and criticism.

David Stiepleman: Especially from yourself.

Steve Kerr: Especially from yourself.

David Stiepleman: I had not heard of this book until you agreed to come here. 134 pages. I have it in my bag. It's been blowing my mind for the last six days. It's a really interesting book. Much harder I would've imagined to do that, even with that book and that guidance in the era of social media. Do you think you would've been able to do that?

Steve Kerr: I don't know. I remember when I was trying out for the Bulls I was having a great training camp. But on a non-guaranteed contract, just hoping to make the team, and I'm thinking, “I got this, I'm playing great, had four or five great days of practice.” And at the gas station, I think I'll pick up a Chicago Tribune, you know, read about the Bulls, read about what they're saying. And the author of the story basically wrote that Kerr is likely to be waived, he probably won't make the roster. And it crushed me. I felt like I lost this confidence and the vibe that I had going. And I went home and I was like, “I don't think I'm going to make it.”

Steve Kerr: Because some writer said that. So from that point on, I said, “I'm not reading this stuff anymore.” And it was really easy, you just didn't have to buy the Chicago Tribune. So fast forward 30 years, try doing that now. We're all holding every bit of information on our phones. So I think it's never been harder to be a professional athlete. It's never been harder to be a functioning member of society. As a business leader in this room, we all have to tread so carefully. And we're all human, so we're all subject to human emotions, and we want people to like us. It is so brutally difficult today to navigate all of that, but you have to try your best to do it. Back then it was like, just don't pick up the paper and don't turn on afternoon talk radio and you're fine. But today, it requires a lot of discipline.

David Stiepleman: I think my no email idea is picking up steam.

David Stiepleman: Thank you, Steve. Appreciate that. Actually, I just had a thought, and you tell me if this is wrong. I read a story about you about when you go to Chicago, you go to Second City, the famous improv club, and you go up on stage and you are practicing mind-body? Is that what you're doing? What are you doing?

Steve Kerr: No, I love Second City. Anybody go to Second City before? It's so fun. It's kind of my favorite thing to do in Chicago. There's so much history there, people are so talented and the improv stuff that they do, it's kind of a checklist. We go to Chicago once a year with the Warriors and if we have a night off, I take the coaching staff. One year I took some of the players, a couple of them got up on stage, and it's just one of those –

David Stiepleman: What is that like – you're with like professional improv people.

Steve Kerr: They make it pretty easy for you. It's fun.

David Stiepleman: That sounds fun. Then you become a coach. I make that sound easy. You actually did an enormous amount of prep, and one of the things you did was you went and spent time with Pete Carroll and the Seahawks, the famous football coach, formerly of USC. And what was that like? Why did you do that? What did you learn?

Steve Kerr: First it was hard to go there because I hated USC so much. As a UCLA fan growing up, I couldn't stand USC, but I couldn't take my eyes off USC football when Pete Carroll was the coach. It was incredible. It was mesmerizing to watch. It wasn't that they were so good, it was the energy, it was the force. You could feel it coming through the tv. And I knew some of it was Pete's personality, but some of it was however they built their culture, it was really incredible. So I got in touch with Pete through a mutual friend. He invited me up. I watched three days of practice and sat in on the coaches meetings. And after three days, he calls me into his office. And, he goes, “So how are you going to coach your team?”

Steve Kerr: This is after I had signed with the Warriors, but before we even had a practice. And I said, “You mean like what offense are we going to run?” And he goes, “No, that stuff doesn't matter.” Like that has nothing to do with it. And I'm like, “Oh, great.” I've spent like a year trying to figure out what we're going to do and strategy. And he said, “let me tell you what I learned.” He said, “I was an NFL coach for four years,” two years with the Patriots, two years with the Jets. He said he got fired both places. He said, “I didn't learn about coaching until I came to the 49ers, and worked as a secondary coach.” He said, “I would go down and talk to Bill Walsh at the end of every day, and I'd just pick his brain.”

Steve Kerr: And Bill Walsh taught me what coaching is about, and I said, “Please go on.” He explained to me that, obviously you have to have talent. When I got to the Warriors, we were loaded with talent. Andre [Iguodala] was there a year. You had a young Steph Curry, young Klay Thompson. We were loaded. So you have to have talent to win. What Pete taught me was how you build a culture is really through your values and your habits. So he said, “Go home and figure out what your values are. Your most important values, to you. Not Phil Jackson's, not Gregg Popovich's, yours.” So I came in the next day, and I really did some introspective thinking about who I am and my background, my family. I gave it a lot of thought.

Steve Kerr: And I came in with four values. He said, those values have to come alive every day. One of them was joy. I just feel like joy should be such an essential part of everybody's day. It's kind of what we all live for. He said “How are your players going to feel joy in practice?” And I had just watched his guys practicing for three days. There's music pumping, there's laughter, there's humor. It's clear that that's a value that he shares. And his players were feeling that every single day. So the lesson he taught me was the way you establish culture is if your values as the leader come alive, and they have to be authentic, you can't make that stuff up. So it was a fascinating experience for me to go up there. I didn't think that's what the lesson was going to be at all. The lesson was so powerful, and it also reminded me that that's exactly what Phil Jackson had done. It's exactly what Gregg Popovich had done, Lute Olson at Arizona. They were all very authentic to themselves, but they were values driven leaders. And those values came alive every day.

David Stiepleman: We had a panel yesterday with some investors of ours. I don't know if Dom is still here, but one of our investors just said in describing us, it's a vibe, it's a feeling, there's lots of words. By the way, tell people what the four are, besides joy.

Steve Kerr: Joy, competition, mindfulness and compassion. I was raised in a very academic family. My dad was a professor. My older siblings are PhDs. I was sort of the black sheep of the family. U of A, a general studies major, go Wildcats. But I'm kind of in the family business. Coaching is teaching. And I just remember so many moments in my childhood where my dad's colleagues from all over the world – he was a Middle East political scientist, professor, eventually became the president of the American University in Beirut – So there were people from all over the world in our backyard having barbecues my whole childhood. And I just remember the vibe, and those were the values that I associated with my own upbringing, and that's how it came to be.

David Stiepleman: That's amazing. You spent a large part of your first 16, 17 years out of the country. You were born in Beirut.

Steve Kerr: Born In Beirut. My dad was born there. His parents, my grandparents, were actually missionaries, during World War I, they were in their early twenties. They met there. Imagine being in your early twenties, going to Turkey during the Armenian Holocaust. Over a million Armenians were killed in World War I. So they went as relief workers and started an orphanage for Armenian children. This was like 1918, 1919, early twenties. Can you imagine? I mean, you've got two kids. I've got three. Can you imagine your child comes to you at 22 and says, “Hey, I want to go over to where this Holocaust is happening.” It’s an incredible story. But they ended up settling in Beirut, and that's where my dad was born. My mom met him. She was on her junior year abroad, spending her junior year from Occidental College in Beirut. My dad was a student there, and they met. And I was born there. My older two siblings were born there. My dad taught at the university at the time. So we have a long history of roots in Lebanon.

David Stiepleman: Obviously that has an incredible impact on your outlook and how you think about people and think about interacting with people. How would you boil that down?

Steve Kerr: I didn't realize it at the time, but it was the best education I ever received. When I got older, my dad took the job at UCLA, but he would take sabbaticals every few years. So we went to Cairo, Egypt for three years. We were in France for a year. I was a teenager living in Cairo and going to school with kids from all over the world. I didn't understand it at the time, but seeing diversity up close, experiencing people, friends from all walks of life was incredibly powerful. And I think having that background kind of shaped my worldview and shaped the way I see the power of diverse thinking and collaboration.

David Stiepleman: So you're in the family business as a coach, and you said something that caught my ear, which was, you're basically doing the same thing as Coach Popovich, Phil Jackson. But if you watch the ‘Last Dance’, that locker room, that culture in Chicago seemed like a lot different from the one that you've cultivated. Can you talk about that?

Steve Kerr: I think the authenticity part is so important. You can't be anybody else. And that was another thing. You know, Pete Carroll said to me, “You can't be anybody but yourself. If you try to be Phil Jackson, then your players will see right through it.” And Phil was so unique. He grew up in South Dakota near an Indian reservation. He had this intense passion for Native American history and spirituality. So that was a part of his coaching style. We would warm up before practice and when it was time to go upstairs, we would meet every day in this film room. The room was adorned with Native American art. He would come out on the balcony while we were warming up. When it was time for our meeting to start he'd bang on a drum.

Steve Kerr: He referred to us as his tribe, like we were his tribe. And you recognized pretty early on, it was authentic, it was genuine. Like he believed so deeply in the spirit and the authenticity of a tribe and how a tribe functions, that we became as tribe. The first couple days, you're kind of like, “Is this real?” And you realize, yeah it's real. I can't do that. I don't have any of that in my background. If I tried, it would be insane. I think every great coach I've had has been so unique and authentic. Gregg Popovich is amazing, and he couldn't be more different from Phil Jackson, but they're two of the top few coaches in the history of the game.

David Stiepleman : Also in the top 15, I think.

Steve Kerr: Yeah, a little higher than I am.

David Stiepleman: Compassion I thought was a very interesting one. You and Pete Carroll did a podcast during the pandemic and after, which people should listen to. It's fantastic. And I loved your guys' conversation with Dave Roberts, the Dodgers manager, and he was talking about – it’s a much bigger roster than a basketball team, baseball is – but the guys who maybe you're not going to see every day, they're not starters, maybe they're in the bullpen. He was very focused on them feeling him and seeing him and them knowing that he understood what they were going through and what the context is. I think that's part of compassion. I imagine that's important. How do you do that?

Steve Kerr: In basketball it's easier than those two sports because we have 15 guys. It's important for me and my staff to know all 15 guys' story, because it's a hard job. It's a dream job, but it's a hard job. It doesn't matter who you are. If you're Steph Curry, you're one of the greatest players of all time. That's a pretty high bar to reach every single day. Imagine the pressure on Steph Curry. And if you're the 15th guy, you're just trying to make it, you're trying to pay your bills. You're trying to achieve a life that can change the course of your family's history from a financial standpoint. And everything in between. You've got different players every year at different stages of their career. If we don't know their stories, then that's on us because we're coaching them, so we need to know what makes them tick. And that's a really important part of any leadership position is really getting to know people. It's not just imparting technical knowledge. It's really getting to know them and care about them, because that's when the communication really can click. And you can get to the juicy part.

David Stiepleman: The juicy part. Supposed to ask a follow up question on that. But you're texting your players after a game, especially after a loss. What do you get, without divulging state secrets, texting? What's that all about?

Steve Kerr: Texting, writing a note, having a conversation. There's a lot of different ways to communicate. Sometimes with the younger group, they're going to pay attention to the text. They might go back and read it versus a conversation, they may forget what you said or not pay attention at all. So I think part of the job is touching base with players periodically where it doesn't have to be like, “Hey, we're going to have a meeting in the principal's office.” It's just, “Hey, how you doing?” And, and I think a text, or a note sometimes is a really powerful way to communicate.

David Stiepleman: You were sitting in the session this morning we about one's organizational system. And one of the themes that Alan was mentioning was how we're not the same people we were 10 years ago. You've been coaching for 10 years, a little more. How have you changed? How has your approach changed? Has it changed, both as a function of having different players, but also having different skills and abilities, like as we get older, we can do different things? Mentally and what we're focused on. How has it changed for you?

Steve Kerr: It’s changed in that the league has changed so much. When I came in 10 years ago, we had six coaches, now we have 14. And I'm managing a much bigger group now. And that changed everything. The way the game is played now is very different. We saw on the analytics presentation earlier. All that stuff 10 years ago was just kind of entering the league and now it's commonplace. Everybody is copying this pattern of layups and threes. At the time, 10 years ago, we were the innovators. We were the ones shooting all the threes. We were also playing at the fastest pace of anybody in the league. And because we were winning, people started copying us, and now we're the ones who are looking up and saying, “We’ve got some things to catch up on.”

Steve Kerr: Part of my job now is to figure out what those things are. Some of that is analytically, some of that is personnel driven. Some of it is style. I am always searching for different ways to play, different styles of offense. I visit other coaches. I'm going to visit some college coaches this summer because I think the college game in some ways is different from the pro game. And I'm looking to maybe zag a little bit, as a lot of people are zigging I think we’ve got to zag a little bit based on our personnel. And so I need some fresh ideas. I need some new thoughts. We're all constantly evolving and learning, and it's important not to stop that process.

David Stiepleman: The analytics, from an amateur's perspective, like mine. People think about “Moneyball.” I know you've spoken to Michael Lewis, that's super interesting to you, but baseball's got so much stuff that you can kind of analyze. Basketball is much different. Are there limits to that? Are you already hitting the limits of that? Or do you think there's more sort of analytics besides shot arc or whatever else that you guys are looking at?

Steve Kerr: I don't think there are limits. I think things will continue to evolve. I think the hardest part with analytics and sports is the data can be wrong. It's just like your opinion as a coach. I can run a play that I think is right and it doesn't work. The data sometimes can be misleading. I'll give you an example. When I was in Phoenix as general manager, we had this guy Amar’e Stoudemire, who was an amazing player. And from dunking to about six feet, he had this little hook shot that was deadly. And he was an incredible finisher, but he was nearing the end of his contract. We were thinking about trading him. So we put our analytics department on this project, and they came up with a list of players who were equally or even more proficient from zero to six feet than Amar’e Stoudemire.

Steve Kerr: Every shot from zero to six feet, how good were they? So they came up with this guy, his name was JJ Hickson. He played the league for a few years, played in North Carolina state, and he had a much higher percentage from zero to six feet than Amar’e Stoudemire. And we're sitting there like “There's no way. There's no way this is true.” So we pulled up all of this guy's makes from zero to six feet. And you know what we found out, he was fantastic from zero to one feet, but from one to six he'd never took a shot. But because he never took a shot, we still counted like from zero to six feet.

David Stiepleman: Great percentage.

Steve Kerr: Great percentage, but he was nowhere near the player of Amar’e [Stoudemire]. So in that case, the data was wrong. If we had made a decision based on that we would've gone terribly wrong. So a big part of analytics and sports is figuring out what is actually applicable, and then how to apply it. And one thing we've done is, we've hired a young guy named Will Sheehey, who, if you're an Indiana Hoosier you might remember him. 10 years ago he was an All-American at Indiana. Really bright guy. And very analytically driven and still great on the court. 30 years old now and still gets out there with our guys and plays, but his mind is very analytically driven, but he also has this basketball background. So now the coaches are much more likely to listen to him, rather than to someone who hadn't played at that level. And he's now integrating the numbers with the stuff that we're doing on the floor, and we're able to zero in on the stuff that's not only important, but accurate also.

David Stiepleman: You need the human overlay.

Steve Kerr: Yes. Because I still think sports are more art than science, and we've evolved because of the scientific part of it. But you're still human beings, and it's still people collaborating and working together. But the science part is really important. It's just trying to find that happy medium.

David Stiepleman: So you're doing your R&D trips when you're not going to be coaching team USA this summer. It's super interesting to think about what's next for the Warriors. I'm sure everyone's calling the end of an era way too early, but it's got to be a super interesting puzzle for you. I'd love to hear you talk about how you're thinking about it. You obviously don't know what you're going to conclude yet about what you got to do for next season. But the Warriors were very good for the second half this year. You're a good team, top 10 in offense and defense. Do you try and get to that earlier? What are you doing? You've also talked about wanting to make sure that this era ends honorably with grace, with dignity. What does that mean? It's a compound question. Sorry.

Steve Kerr: What's hard in sports is that inevitably every team, every era is going to fade. And that's where we are now. It's been 10 years since I've been there, really 12 years since the team got really good. We had a lot of amazing years in there. But inevitably players get older. Andre [Iguodala]'s not in the gym anymore. He's here at this conference. That hurts our team a little bit. Same thing with Steph and Klay and Draymond. They're all on the decline. And it's rare that you automatically reshuffle the deck and come up with a really talented group. It's not going to happen right away. So as the team declines, I've talked to the guys about the importance of going out the right way. You want to do it with dignity. You don't want to lose the soul of who you are, because if you can maintain your soul, your culture, then the team can continue to thrive, albeit not with the same record, but with the same processes. And as you start to build your team with young talent, hopefully those same values, that same vibe that you have in the gym can be there and it sets up the next run.

David Stiepleman: That's pretty cool to think about. Ok Olympics, that's an incredible roster. I mean, ridiculous. But the rest of the world plays pretty well too. How are you approaching that? How are you and your staff approaching that?

Steve Kerr: This is basically like the ‘92 ‘Dream Team.’ This is the ‘24 version of that. It literally is all the best players. It's LeBron James and Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, and Joel Embiid and Anthony Edwards. It's the very best players. It's going to be amazing. One of my first thoughts is I'm going to have to sit two or three Hall of Famers every game. You can only play nine or 10. There's 12 guys on the roster. So I've already assigned one of my assistant coaches to be in charge of playing time.

Steve Kerr: I figured that one out quickly.

David Stiepleman: Delegation. That's good.

Steve Kerr: The real problem is that we are not – I don’t know if you remember Charles Barkley in ‘92, making fun of the Angolan team as they beat him by 70 points. We're not playing the Angolan team from ’92, we're playing amazing teams. Serbia, Canada, Germany. All these teams are loaded with NBA talent and continuity. And the FIBA game is very different from the NBA game. So it will not be easy despite having this loaded roster. It can be fun though.

David Stiepleman: Sounds fun. You didn't divulge any secrets about what we're going to do. I know this is supposed to be an international group, and it is, but I don't want you to ruin our chances. Okay, a great teacher in your background, a teacher who you remember, who inspired you, who turned you on to a book? Anybody?

Steve Kerr: Honestly, my coaches were my favorite teachers. Phil Jackson was probably the best teacher that I had. He would give us books throughout the year. He was an intense reader. He would think about each person and pick a book that related to that person's background.

David Stiepleman: Do you remember a book that he gave you?

Steve Kerr: He gave me Cormack McCarthy's, “All The Pretty Horses.” He knew about my background in Arizona and the Southwest. He was a fascinating guy. He remains a mentor to me, and I think the most unique coach. Phil in a lot of ways helped change the culture and coaching to where we are now. This is so healthy, what's happening in sports at every level now. You're getting coaches who are so much more in tune with the connection with the athlete rather than the dominance over the athlete. And it's just so much better for every athlete of every age to feel a connection, and to feel inspired rather than feel intimidated. Growing up, my coaches came from a different era where you were supposed to be afraid.

David Stiepleman: We have this saying here about being nice winners. Everybody in the NBA says you're the nicest guy in the NBA, but they don't mean you're a pushover. You're a pretty passionate guy. You've got some good stories in your professional background. You don't back down. How do you do both?

Steve Kerr: As a kid, I had the worst temper. When I would lose I would cry and throw stuff and it was really hard to manage that and learn how to temper it. I finally did when I was 47. That's when I realized I can actually be a good sport. I'm exaggerating a little bit, but I think I had to have some success before I could actually realize that it's okay to lose sometimes. When you're young and you're fiery and you're insecure, like I was, everything just seems like you're fighting for everything. And I think I got to a place in my professional life where I had some success, and was able to feel confident in that and confident enough to recognize the reality of life, which is that we're all going to go through wins and losses and ups and downs. It was a hard grind. One of the reasons I picked up that book, “Inner Game of Tennis,” is because I beat myself to death as a player. I was so hard on myself, and it was unhealthy. And so it took time, and it took me to have some success to temper my emotions a little bit.

David Stiepleman: There's a million things to talk about. Compassion, competitiveness, mindfulness, joy. This is incredible. You're incredible. Good luck in Paris. Thank you so much for being here. This is awesome.

Steve Kerr: Thank you, David. Appreciate it.

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