Steve Kerr came to Chicago a journeyman and left a three-time NBA champion.
The current Warriors coach played for three teams during his first five seasons as a player, joining the Bulls during the first year of Michael Jordan's first retirement. Though Kerr had made two trips to the playoffs before arriving in Chicago, he said joining the Bulls after they had just won their first three of six titles under coach Phil Jackson made him grow up fast.
"If I hadn't gone to the Bulls, I would've just been another player who made the NBA -- which I would have been thrilled with," Kerr told Roger Bennett during "The Men In Blazers" special that aired Sunday on NBCSN. "I didn't even think that was possible. But going to the Bulls put the spotlight on me and our entire team, and then it put us in position to play games of importance.
"When you play games of importance, you find yourself tested like you've never been tested before. That's where I really learned lessons."
"The thing that I took from @Jumpman23 was that you go for it every time, every play. You never, ever worry about failure."— Men in Blazers (@MenInBlazers) November 8, 2019
The Men in Blazers @SteveKerr Special airs Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN. @NBCSportsSoccer @NBCSAuthentic pic.twitter.com/9oAyAnvV4u
Kerr played in 78 playoff games over six seasons with the Bulls, coming off the bench for a team that rattled off three consecutive championships and set a then-NBA record with 72 regular-season wins in 1995-96. Jordan led the Bulls back to greatness after he returned from a baseball-filled retirement in 1995, and Kerr said he might have learned his most valuable lesson of all from Jordan.
No, it wasn't the time Jordan purportedly punched him in the face, but seeing how the NBA legend responded when things did not go his way.
"The thing that I took from Michael Jordan was that you go for it every time," Kerr told Bennett. "Every play. You never worry about failure, and I had worried about failure my whole life. I didn't want to be the guy at the end who missed the shot. And so up until my time with the Bulls, I was afraid of being that guy, and then I realized Michael took all these big shots -- he missed half of them.
"I would see him go for it and miss, and he'd go into the locker room and it was no big deal. He wasn't fazed. The next game, two nights later, he'd take the same shot, and that made an impact on me. I realized I had to get over my fear of failure, and just go for it and lay it out there."
The lessons Kerr described are ones his Warriors learned firsthand during his first five seasons at the helm, when they appeared in five consecutive NBA Finals and won three rings. But in the absence of Steph Curry (broken left hand), Klay Thompson (left ACL rehab) and Draymond Green (torn ligament in left index finger) and the host of veterans who left this offseason, the D'Angelo Russell- and Eric Paschall-led Warriors have to learn them anew.
Given Kerr's aforementioned experience, though, they don't have to go it alone.