OAKLAND -- Steve Kerr walked out on the Warriors on Monday, taking his assistants with him. Told the players to coach themselves.
They did, and quite well, rolling to a 129-83 rout of the hapless Phoenix Suns.
Kerr could not have done a more effective job had he supervised the morning shootaround, wielded the greaseboard and sweated every play call.
“I thought it was great,” general manager Bob Myers said of Kerr’s one-game experiment. “That’s easy to say now that we won.”
Understand, though, Kerr didn’t physically leave the team. He and his staff were on the bench throughout the evening at Oracle Arena, but they limited their authority to deciding who and when to substitute.
During timeouts, Kerr generally chatted with his assistants away from the bench, leaving the players to themselves, as he had during pregame and at halftime.
“It’s their team,” he said. “That’s one of the first things you have to consider as a coach. It’s not your team. It’s not Bob Myers’ team. It’s not (CEO) Joe Lacob’s team -- although I’m not going to tell Joe that. It’s the players’ team and they have to take ownership of it.
“As coaches, our job is to nudge them in the right direction, guide them, but we don’t control them. They determine their own fate. And I don’t feel like we’ve focused well at all over the last month, and it just seemed like the right thing to do. And they communicated really well together and they drew up some nice plays.”
Kerr said he has no regrets, despite some blowback on social media and on the NBA TV telecast, mostly by analyst and former coach Sam Mitchell. There were those who thought this violated the unwritten rules of competition.
As in “showing up the opposition.”
Aware of that possibility, Kerr made a point of engaging Suns coach Jay Triano in a brief conversation after the game.
“I have to coach my team,” Kerr said. “I told Jay afterward, I said, ‘People may make a big deal of it but it had nothing to do with being disrespectful. It had to do with me trying to reach my team.’ I have not reached them for the last month.
“They’re tired of my voice; I’m tired of my voice. It’s been a long haul these last few years. I wasn’t reaching them. We just figured it’s probably a good night to pull a trick out of the hat and do something different.”
Despite this novel approach, there was one thing that didn’t change. The Warriors got off to another lackluster start, falling behind early and catching to take a 25-24 lead after one quarter.
Over the final three quarters, the Warriors outscored Phoenix 104-59.
Four veterans -- Andre Iguodala (who supervised the morning shootaround), David West, Stephen Curry and the inactive Draymond Green -- were responsible for most of the coaching duties, literally drawing up plays.
“It was collective effort,” Curry said. “We were just trying to stay locked in and enjoy the process of getting focused and knowing our sets, being thoughtful about what lineups are out there, what we’re trying to accomplish and execute.”
It was Curry who made the most glaring coaching gaffe of the evening, taking too long to draw up a play to open the third quarter, resulting a delay of game warning.
“I was horrible, actually,” he said. “I thought about a play and then forgot the second option and had two guys in the wrong place on the board.”
The one-game deviation, against a heavy underdog, accomplished its goal. The Warriors’ scoring output was their best since Dec. 30. They posted a season-high 16 blocks while holding the Suns to 34.7 percent shooting, the stingiest since restricting the Cavaliers to 31.8 percent in the Christmas Day.
“The players responded really well,” Kerr said. “When we’re focused, we are really tough to beat. And tonight we were focused, just having to count on each other and not hearing my voice.
“I would grade (the players) with an A in terms of their focus,” Kerr said. “And that was the whole point.”