When Steve Kerr handed his greaseboard to veteran players last week, it touched off a variety of reactions around the NBA. Some were offended, seeing as disrespectful. Some were intrigued. A few implied it was proof the Warriors don’t need a coach.
Assistant coach Ron Adams, perhaps the team’s most noted worrier, shrugged. He may have giggled behind his austere, bespectacled façade.
“This is kind of how our team has operated for four years,” Adams said on the Warriors Insider Podcast.
The only thing that was different, it seems, is that rather than accept player input before drawing a play, Kerr literally gave a few select players the greaseboard during timeouts in a 129-83 win over Phoenix.
“Steve is marvelous at listening and empowering, so this isn’t something new,” Adams said. “The other night it was a little more stark because the media picks up that some player has a clipboard.
“But that’s pretty much how we’ve operated here for the last four years. And it’s paid off handsomely for us.”
The Warriors are 44-14 this season and were 207-39 over three previous seasons, becoming the first team to average 69 wins over three seasons. Their 73 wins in 2015-16 are the most in any season by any team in NBA history.
From the time Kerr arrived before the 2014-15 season, it was evident that he would take a democratic approach, utilizing a deep group of advisers and consultants.
During the 2015 NBA Finals, his special assistant, Nick U’Ren, suggested a mid-series lineup change -- start forward Andre Iguodala over center Andrew Bogut -- that ultimately lifted the Warriors over the Cavaliers.
“Steve is the best at listening to his players,” Adams said. “If they have an idea that they believe in -- maybe Steve doesn’t even believe in it -- but he’s going to allow them to do it simply because that’s what he believes about human beings.
“You have to really take your hat off to Steve because he’s an innovative guy, but he understands at the core that these are the guys who are important.”
Kerr noted after the win over the Suns that the team doesn’t belong to him. Nor does it belong to general manager Bob Myers or CEO Joe Lacob. It belongs to the players, Kerr said, and they deserve to have a piece of authority during the process.
Adams, 70, has been coaching basketball for 45 years, the last 24 in the NBA. The experience of having players draw up plays was new but made sense at the time. And it worked.
“The team was locked into each other,” he said. “It was a good team-building exercise. How that works itself out in terms of the future remains to be seen, whether it’s something that can strengthen us or did strengthen us. I think it did.”