Steve Kerr has taught his share of players as Warriors coach. But Klay Thompson taught him something early in their relationship.
“My very first season, I lit into Klay. I took an early timeout, lit into Klay, and he didn't respond very well,” Kerr said on the Runnin’ Plays Podcast. “And he went out and was kind of rattled, made a couple mistakes.”
Confused, Kerr solicited advice from folks around the eccentric guard, then in his fourth NBA season, and found that Thompson is more receptive to a different style of coaching.
“I kind of checked that box,” Kerr said. “I said, ‘Klay’s not a guy who’s going to respond to yelling.’ ”
The adjustment worked, as Thompson averaged a then-career-high 21.7 points per game and shot 43.9 percent from 3-point range during the 2014-15 season, en route to the first of five NBA All-Star berths – all under Kerr. Thompson has blossomed into one of the league’s best two-way players, consistently hitting more than 40 percent of his 3-point tries and guarding the opponent’s best player.
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Now, Kerr is comfortable with his approach to coaching Thompson.
“You really just wind him up and let him go,” Kerr said. “He’s just a machine. He’s such an incredible two-way player. He never seems to get tired. He’s one of the most unbelievably conditioned athletes I’ve ever been around.
“When you think about what we ask him to do, generally guard the ball, guard the other team’s best player, whether it’s James Harden, or Chris Paul, or whoever. And then if there’s a screen, switch onto the big guy, go guard the big guy on the block. And then, at the other end, run around like crazy, like Reggie Miller all day and shoot 25-footers, and then do that for like 38 minutes just constantly.”
Thompson, of course, missed the entire 2019-20 season due to a torn ACL. But whenever he takes the floor again, you can bet Kerr will just let Klay be Klay.