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Sport First to worst: How Warriors coach Steve Kerr keeps positive attitude with Golden State

17:50  19 november  2019
17:50  19 november  2019 Source:   usatoday.com

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LOS ANGELES -- Following rare wins and debilitating losses, Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr often spends his waking hours searching for answers.

Kerr does not just consult his playbook, game footage or various mentors. He also recently read two books titled “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” and Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning.” The books have nothing to do with basketball. Yet, Kerr believes it has everything to do with how to handle his current job.

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“Anything like those two books provide perspective. You just remember what people have had to go through in the world,” Kerr told USA TODAY Sports. “We’re playing basketball. So we’re doing okay.”

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The Warriors are not exactly doing OK. After winning three NBA championships in five Finals appearances, the Warriors have the NBA’s worst record (2-12). What happened? Not much other than the Warriors absorbing a few key departures (Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston), injuries (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, D'Angelo Russell) and learning curves (10 new players).  

Steve Kerr et al. posing for the camera: TORONTO, ONTARIO - MAY 30:  Head coach Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors reacts against the Toronto Raptors in the first quarter during Game One of the 2019 NBA Finals at Scotiabank Arena on May 30, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) © Getty Images TORONTO, ONTARIO - MAY 30: Head coach Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors reacts against the Toronto Raptors in the first quarter during Game One of the 2019 NBA Finals at Scotiabank Arena on May 30, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

In related news, the Warriors cemented their first five-game losing streak since 2013 and have suffered their worst start since the 1999-2000 season. The Warriors also rank last in nearly all defensive statistical categories. What should the Warriors expect with their roster already missing a combined 82 games with injuries? 

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“We’re in an entirely different situation. So that requires patience, work and effort,” Kerr said. “But we’ve got to keep these guys up. We can’t let them lose hope, lose faith and lose spirit. That is our coaching staff’s job.”

'We know it's going to be a struggle'

When the Warriors made five consecutive Finals appearances, they lauded Kerr for how he handled roles and minutes for All-Star talent, while building a team-oriented culture. This season, the Warriors like how Kerr has offered a blend of positive reinforcement and constructive criticism to his young roster.

“He keeps a good energy about him,” center Willie Cauley-Stein said about Kerr. “Even though it may seem from the outside looking in that it’s all broken up in here and it’s chaos, it’s not. We know it’s going to be a struggle at first. But it’s chemistry building time. He’s really patient with us.”

The Warriors have other reasons not to fret about bottom-line results. The more the Warriors lose, the more likely they can keep their top 20 protected pick they otherwise will owe the Brooklyn Nets as part of the Russell deal. 

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“The goal is to try to win every game. The reality is we’re not (doing) enough to do so right now,” Kerr said. “The other stuff, we don’t control. Whatever happens, happens. Our goal is to go out there and try to perform our best every night, get better and try to build something positive.”

Sometimes, Kerr has struggled maintaining that perspective. During a blow-out loss in Oklahoma City, Kerr kicked the scoreboard. Kerr faulted himself for using a small lineup in crunch time during a close loss to Charlotte. When the Warriors allowed the Lakers open shots at the rim in their most recent loss, Kerr often turned to his assistants, shook his head and shrugged his shoulders.

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Rarely has Kerr experienced much losing. During his 15-year NBA career, Kerr only played on one losing team when the injury-riddled Cleveland Cavaliers went 33-49 in the 1990-91 season. Otherwise, Kerr won a combined five NBA titles with the Bulls and Spurs. Hence, Kerr has not relied on his previous coaches he played for, including San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, former Chicago coach Phil Jackson and former University of Arizona coach Lute Olson.

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“Pop has his own team to worry about. Phil doesn’t know anything about a losing team. So there’s no point in calling him,” Kerr said, laughing. “Same with Lute Olson. When you’re losing games, you turn inward in your circle of coaches, staff and players.”

The main mentors Kerr has consulted? He has often talked with Mike Brown and Ron Adams, two assistants that have had extensive assistant and head coaching experience.

"You got to keep teaching," Brown said. "With a veteran team and the main parts of the team have been together, you can brush up on things. But with a new and young team, you have to continue to teach by film, doing it on the court and by talking to them. It’s going to be a process."

Coaching through a learning curve

So, Kerr has taken various approaches.

The Warriors have often had extended practices and shootarounds. Before Thursday’s loss to the Lakers, the Warriors held a morning shootaround that Kerr said “might have qualified as a training camp practice for last year’s team.” Brown said that Kerr has typically increased his shootaround times from about 20 minutes to an hour and practice times from an hour to 90 minutes. During both sessions, Kerr and his staff have more drills and stop them frequently to reinforce concepts. 

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“It was crazy. It was interesting,” Draymond Green said. “You have to teach. The thing about the NBA is you don’t have a ton of practices. You teach on the fly. I understand it.”

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Kerr has also tweaked his philosophies. 

Without his All-Star talent, Kerr has changed his offense so it primarily involves Russell as the team’s playmaker. Without much defensive depth, Kerr has relied on Green to groom his younger teammates without overtaxing him. Kerr has tolerated poor shot selection so it does not deflate his younger players’ confidence. He has judged how to react to defensive breakdowns depending on if they stemmed from a lack of effort or talent. Through it all, Kerr has told his players he still believes they can be competitive this season. Brown observed that Kerr has "done an extremely good job" with his messaging. 

“He gives us the confidence to go play, go have fun and play hard," forward Eric Paschall said. "It helps all of us out.”

Kerr remains aware of his circumstances. He cannot exactly hold players accountable when he has fielded eight different starting lineups this season to account for injuries. 

“There would be nights I would love to take someone out based on a mistake they made. But I can’t take them out,” Kerr said. “We don’t even have that hammer as a coaching staff to be able to reward guys with playing time or penalizing them with taking playing time away.”

And yet, Kerr still finds some solace with his new role. 

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“I’ve enjoyed coaching young guys. They’re really receptive and want to learn,” Kerr said. “They’re really hard working and it’s fun to see them have success for the first time ever in their young careers. When they have a good game, you can see the joy on their face and you can see what it means to them and their families. But it’s not easy losing. I think that wears on everybody.”

Follow USA TODAY NBA writer Mark Medina on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. 

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: First to worst: How Warriors coach Steve Kerr keeps positive attitude with Golden State

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