OAKLAND, Calif. – Steve Kerr is involved in just about everything but the actual game-day coaching for the Golden State Warriors – film session, coaches meetings, game-planning and practice.
He’s just not yet ready from a health standpoint to be back on the bench with the start of the NBA Finals a week away.
General manager Bob Myers made the announcement Thursday , though he didn’t rule out Kerr returning at some point if he somehow is healthy enough to do so – though that doesn’t appear promising at this stage.
“If he feels better and we have to make those decisions, we will, but right now we’re not putting any deadlines on should he feel better what will we do,” Myers said. “It’ll be based on what day it is, how exactly he feels, how long he’s felt well. I should be saying this with more emotion because it’s hard for me. I’m kind of in this basketball mode but he’s a person and he’s not feeling well and that’s what makes it hard – more than how it affects our team is how he’s feeling that makes it very difficult to have to sit here and say that the man that’s hugely responsible for us being in the Finals for three years in a row, in a moment that he should be treasuring, can’t do it.
“It’s painful, and I know it’s painful for him more than anybody.”
Kerr was there as his team returned to practice following a two-day break after completing a four-game sweep of the Spurs on Monday night to improve to 12-0 this postseason. Myers noted that “just having him in the building and around is very powerful.”
The 51-year-old Kerr underwent a procedure May 5 to repair a spinal fluid leak stemming from complications after two back surgeries in 2015, after the Warriors won their first championship in 40 years during his first season as coach.
While people have asked Kerr whether he should step away, Myers knows that’s not the immediate answer.
“This is his sanctuary. Even though he’s suffering, being at home or being removed is actually harder if we can understand that, because this is his joy,” the GM said. “Even though it’s a muted joy right now, this is the best thing that he feels. This is his fulfillment.”
Kerr returned to practice May 13 after more than three weeks off the court, and he hasn’t coached the Warriors on the bench since Game 2 of the first round against Portland. He then traveled for the Western Conference finals to San Antonio and has been watching games from behind the scenes, speaking to the team beforehand and during halftime. Acting coach Mike Brown has been leading Golden State during Kerr’s absence.
It’s unclear how well the latest procedure worked for Kerr, who missed the initial 43 games last season dealing with debilitating symptoms such as headaches and nausea that have returned throughout this season.
“Unfortunately this has been a two-year odyssey,” Myers said. “He’s never tried to sugarcoat how he feels. Sadly, we’ve been dealing with this. So I can tell, and you guys are around, you see the ups and downs. … He’s not going to put himself or the team at risk and say that he can do it if he doesn’t feel like he can.”
Brown said he will continue to lead the way with reigning NBA Coach of the Year Kerr’s guidance until told otherwise. Myers doesn’t ask Kerr every day how he is feeling, rather allowing the coach to reach out with any updates.
“This is unusual, right?” Myers said. “It’s a lot of gray area even though Mike has won all these games. There’s no right or wrong way to handle this, short of looking in his eyes: ‘How you feeling? How do you feel about doing it?“’
Even Myers, a close friend of Kerr along with being a colleague, is struggling to appreciate the accomplishment by the Warriors given the coach’s heart-wrenching ordeal.
“Somebody asked me, ‘Is going to the Finals three times muted because of what’s going on?’ Of course it is,” Myers said. “This should be great. This should be unbelievable. And we are excited, and we are proud, but our head coach can’t coach. It’s not an excuse, it’s just a fact, and that sucks. But we deal with it, and everybody has been dealing with it and have met that challenge and have embraced it and will continue to do it.”
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