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The press conference Tuesday announcing Steve Kerr as the NBA’s coach of the year ran the gamut of emotions. He was shocked Lute Olson showed up and became emotional, holding back tears when discussing his back injury that kept him from coaching 43 games this season.
Kerr was genuinely surprised to see at the press conference his former high school coach Jerry Marvin from Palisades and Olson from Arizona. Marvin and Olson were introduced after Kerr, fellow former Arizona standout and Warriors assistant coach Luke Walton and general manager Bob Myers took the stage.
Kerr said “wow” when Olson and his wife Kelly appeared from a back room.
“First of all, I want to say thanks to Coach Marvin and Coach Olson,” Kerr said. “This is a total shock to me. It’s amazing that you guys are here, so thank you for coming up to celebrate with me. It’s awesome.”
The celebration involved Walton because he kept the Warriors focused in Kerr’s absence during the first 43 games, leading the team to 39-4 record, including a record 24-0 start.
Kerr was often with the team but not on the bench while recovering from complications from multiple back surgeries. He had pain in his back and neck and was beset by constant headaches.
His ordeal obviously took a serious toll on him emotionally.
“This was the hardest year of my life, not even close,” Kerr said with a pause, trying to keep his composure. “I am incredibly lucky to have this amazing family (his wife Margo and their grown kids were sitting in the first row) and all of these beautiful people around me. Bob went from being my general manager, the guy I worked with to the guy I leaned on every day.
“When I was really struggling with my pain … Bob called me every single day and offered his support. If I didn’t have Bob and if I didn’t have Margo and my kids and I didn’t have my team to come back and coach … boy it was rough, it was really rough.”
Among the other highlights of the press conference was Myers addressing Walton directly, telling him what he thought of his character while coaching the Warriors in Kerr’s absence.
ARIZONA NBA HONORS
Rookie of the Year: Damon Stoudamire (1995-96)
Sixth Man of the Year: Jason Terry (2008-09)
Most Improved Player: Gilbert Arenas (2002-03)
NBA Finals MVP: Andre Iguodala (2014-15)
NBA All-Star coach: Steve Kerr (2014-15)
NBA Coach of the Year: Kerr (2015-16)
“You did an unbelievable job,” Myers said. “I kept waiting for you to change with your success because I’ve seen so many people change with success. I kept waiting for you to become someone else because you were getting adulation and you were obviously making your own mark.
“But I never saw for one second you waver from your character and who you are and your support of Steve and knowing that you were just holding down the fort. I just think that is tremendous. That is such a rare quality to be unaffected and to stay who you are. That was awesome and I appreciate it.”
Myers quipped that Kerr should give Walton the shoe off the coach-of-the-year trophy.
Behind Kerr and his staff, that includes Walton and another former Arizona player, Bruce Fraser, the Warriors made history by winning an NBA-record 73 games in the regular season. Andre Iguodala, another former Wildcat, and Golden State set NBA records for single-season road victories (34) and consecutive home regular-season wins (54, including 18 victories to finish last season when they won the NBA title).
Golden State also became the first team to go through a season without losing two games in a row or losing to the same team twice.
They established an NBA record with 1,077 three-pointers. They recorded the league’s highest scoring average (114.9 points per game) since the 1991-92 season and led the NBA in offensive rating (112.5 points per 100 possessions), field goal percentage (48.7), three-point field goal percentage (41.6, second highest in NBA history) and assists (28.9 a game).
Defensively, the Warriors tied for fourth in defensive rating, allowing 100.9 points per 100 possessions.
Kerr is expected to be given the coach of the year award Wednesday before Game 5 of the first-round playoff series with the Houston Rockets. It is the sixth significant NBA honor achieved by a former Arizona player, including Iguodala’s Finals MVP award last season (see full list to the upper right of this blog).
ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.