OAKLAND -- Walking into the interview room and taking a seat, Steve Kerr opened his pregame news conference by completely ignoring basketball.
Justifiably, it turns out.
The Warriors coach spoke about the recent death of Steve Williams, a longtime usher/security specialist at Oracle Arena, describing him as a “beloved figure.” Kerr spent a couple minutes expressing his personal condolences to the Williams family, as well as on behalf of the Warriors.
“Everybody here is very sad,” Kerr said, nearly two hours before tipoff against the Toronto Raptors. “We want to thank him for his wonderful years of service. He was a good man.”
Having captured the curiosity and attention of the room, Kerr moved on to another topic suited much more to real life, and real lives, than basketball.
Discrimination based on sexual identity -- and beyond.
As part of their continuing effort to reach out to all communities, the Warriors chose Wednesday as LGBTQ Night.
“I’m proud to be part of an organization and to live in a region and an area that really embraces diversity,” Kerr said. “There’s never been a more important time in our country to respect the person next to you, regardless of race, creed, color, sexual preference or sexual identity.”
No one would have held it against Kerr if he failed to acknowledge the death of a behind-the-scenes employee or the promotional event orchestrated by the team’s marketing/public relations departments.
It would have been enough that, in addition to dedicating a night to the cause, commemorative T-shirts were given to those who purchased special event tickets via a group offer.
But that’s not how Kerr thinks. As much as he studies the game and interacts with the men on his roster, he also makes time for the world beyond basketball.
“It’s an important night for us and we want to welcome everybody from the LGBTQ community,” Kerr said. “If you’re coming the game tonight and your child says, ‘What does that mean?’ Explain it to them. Explain to them the importance of loving the person next to you and respecting them, no matter who they are or where they come from. They’re human beings. We’re all human beings. We’re all in this together.”
When basketball finally merged with the society beyond, Kerr was prepared. With Klay Thompson pledging $1,000 for every point he scores toward North Bay fire relief efforts, the coach was asked if he might extend Klay Thompson’s minutes.
The answer: No.
“I think I’d just have to do my job,” Kerr said. “I’ll add some money to the pot instead.”