OAKLAND – Walking out of the tunnel 10 minutes before tipoff Friday night, Steve Kerr was met by a wall of warmth and sound, the pro-Warriors crowd at Oracle Arena rising to greet and applause the coach making his first appearance this season.
“Our fans are amazing,” Kerr said afterward. “I just felt good to be back at Oracle with all the energy from the crowd and our team playing. It wasn’t our best stuff, but we got the job done. All in all, it felt pretty good.”
Kerr and his team delivered to the fans a 122-110 victory over the Indiana Pacers.
Moreover, the 50-year-old coach said he felt no ill effects from the debilitating physical and mental challenges that sidelined him for 16 weeks.
“There was nothing like that,” he said. “I was fine.”
His players were inclined to agree.
“It was a special night to have coach Kerr back on the bench,” Draymond Green said. “With all he’s been through over the last seven months, to see him doing what he loves once again is amazing.”
Kerr underwent two back surgeries last summer, the second in hopes of alleviating complications after the first. It did not. In recent weeks, though, he has felt good enough to be with the team and coaching staff almost full-time.
After telling his coaches Thursday night he was ready to return, Kerr told the players on Friday morning. Then came the game, and it didn’t take long for everything to become familiar again.
“It was good,” Steph Curry said of the return. “It felt like normal. Oracle gave him a nice standing ovation and welcomed him back in good style. He looked very comfortable and very energetic. It was great to see him out there.”
Sitting next to assistant Luke Walton – former interim head coach – Kerr for the most part was his usual animated self on the bench. It was what he did not do that “disappointed” Green.
Green launched an extra-long 3-pointer, missing badly, and waited. And he kept waiting, to no avail.
“I told Steph and Luke before the game, I’m going to jack one, so he can yell at me,” Green half-joked. “But he didn’t yell.
“So I told him he’s slipping. He’s supposed to yell at me.”
Kerr said he was pleased with a few aspects of the team’s play but expressed profound disappointment with the 17 turnovers, which led to 23 Indiana points.
For this night, he’ll live with it.
“We always have a lot of fun; how could we not?” Kerr said. “We’ve got great guys, we have a good team and we enjoy what we do. It was fun to be a part of it again.”