Steve Kerr was recently interviewed at ESPN.com and asked about his coaching priorities for the upcoming season. Specifically he was asked about the record number of wins the Golden State team produced last year and what role that accomplishment played this season.
He acknowledged it had been an important accomplishment the year before, but that the focus has changed for the franchise.
They want to win a championship this season. That takes priority over any regular season records.
What’s the key? Being fresh at the end of the season.
How do you do that?
Here are his coaching priorities:
Pace Your Team
He borrowed from his experience as a player with the Bulls where being the best team year after year wore on them. I remember watching that team, and Kerr as a player, and you could see at times in the middle of the season they were simply managing themselves to get to the end. A full season is a grind.
“We were running on fumes,” Kerr said. “I think the toll was over several years. That’s one of the reasons I think this year we’re going to pace ourselves somewhat … but we’re also better off having the new blood and the new life, because I think it will give us that boost.
“It doesn’t guarantee that were going to be better, but it changes the dynamics a little bit. I think it’ll make things a little fresher, and make it maybe a little easier for us to get through the regular season and get through the grind.”
Kerr references the need to keep the players healthy through a long regular season. The toll can be substantial on the body. And, the toll can be significant on the spirit.
He mentions LeBron James’s huge accomplishment of playing in 6 championships in a row, but that he limits his regular season play some in order to be his best at the end. Something he intends to do with more of his team.
“The toll was more emotional than anything,” Kerr said Friday, ahead of the Warriors’ preseason game against the Denver Nuggets. “Over time, that stuff adds up. That’s why LeBron [James] going to the Finals six straight years is, to me, one of the great accomplishments of all time. Like, how many guys have done that?
“It’s a tricky issue on this team because people come out to see these guys play,” Kerr said. “I am sensitive to that. Not at the expense of our team’s health, but if guys are healthy, at the very minimum I want to throw them out there — for a few minutes, anyway — so fans get to see them play. But health always comes first.”
Another focus, at least early will be to experiment some with his team. Take some risks and discover a bit more about who they are. This is part of managing the season for an experienced team.
“I don’t think we’ll have that this year,” Kerr said. “We’ve kind of been through that. We’d rather win a championship than set a record, that’s for sure.
“Last year we felt like we could do both — and we were pretty close — but we couldn’t pull it off. This year’s more about just growing and getting better and experimenting the first couple months of the season.”
In order to confidently try this approach a team and a coach have to have established a substantial record of success. The Warriors have this record, and have one of the handful of best players in basketball with Curry. It’s a risky thing to approach it with these coaching priorities–pacing yourself and experimenting with personnel, but it’s a calculated risk born of a depth of experience and success.
The Steve Kerr article is here.