For one season 10 years ago, the coaches of the two current top teams in the Western Conference were on the same side.
Steve Kerr was the general manager of the Phoenix Suns. Mike D'Antoni was the head coach. The Suns were a powerhouse of the NBA, not the cellar dweller they are now.
In the three years before Kerr took over as GM in 2007, Phoenix won 62, 54 and 61 games with D'Antoni running his "Seven Seconds or Less" offense.
But a misguided trade by Kerr for an aging Shaquille O'Neal brought the partnership to an end after just one year. Following the conclusion of the 2007-08 season, D'Antoni left to coach the Knicks.
Now, with both thriving in their current situations, Kerr reflected back what went wrong in Phoenix in an interview with the Mercury News.
“I have some regrets. I think we had a few differences that I probably didn’t handle very well as a GM that I could’ve probably handled better, especially given that we really like each other and have a lot of similar viewpoints on the game,” Kerr told the Mercury News' Mark Medina.
Those Suns teams couldn't get past Gregg Popovich's Spurs teams, who beat Phoenix in the postseason two straight seasons.
“I had some ideas on how we could get over the hump. Mike had some ideas. We were both frustrated we couldn’t beat the Spurs. I just think if I had more experience as a GM, I would’ve navigated that whole thing a little bit better,” Kerr said.
According to Medina, D'Antoni had little interest in rehashing his past with Kerr.
“We’re good. He’s a great person, a great coach. I have nothing but respect for him,” D'Antoni said.
While D'Antoni doesn't seem to want to talk about that season, Kerr was more than willing to shoulder the blame for the break-up.
“He’s laid back and funny. He’s a great guy. But he is competitive as all hell. Rather than trying to relieve some of that pressure on him, I was just as competitive. We wanted to win so badly that it led to some mistakes on my part in terms of how I handled the relationship with him and how I neglected to help him where I could’ve helped him," Kerr said.
For now, Kerr leads his NBA-best 37-9 Warriors into Houston Saturday night to take on D'Antoni and his 31-12 Rockets. It's the final of three meetings between the two teams, who split the first two meetings of the season.