OAKLAND: Just about everything seemed to work for the Warriors during their 104-89 win against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Fortunately, they don’t have much reason to go back to the drawing board for Sunday’s (Monday in Manila) Game 2, because the drawing board is no longer with us. It gave its life in the service of Steve Kerr.
Kerr’s whiteboard met its demise with 8:03 left in the third quarter of Thursday night’s game. The Cavaliers had just mounted a 7-0 run to cut Golden State’s once-comfortable lead to 56-52, and Kerr, bothered both by a non-call on Cleveland’s previous possession and by his team’s lackluster play, called timeout.
The coach brandished his board and looked ready to draw up a play. But anger overtook him, and he shattered his Xs-and-Os canvas into pieces with one swift poke of his pen.
“Destruction tends to ease some of the anger,” Kerr said after the game, able to laugh about the moment with his team up 1-0. “So I try to take it out on a clipboard instead of a player.”
Asked about the incident Saturday, opposing coach Tyronn Lue spoke with admiration.
“It must have been something he didn’t like for him to break a clipboard like that,” Lue said. “Pretty strong guy.”
Strength in Numb Rage. That could be Kerr’s motto.
Which is odd to anyone who has rubbed elbows with Kerr at an interview, or in an informal setting. For the vast majority of the time, he is the definition of chill. He’s easygoing, self-deprecating, soft-spoken and quick to smile. There’s just no other way to say it. Steve Kerr is nice.
“But Steve at the core is an extremely competitive guy,” assistant coach Ron Adams said. “So what happens for you guys who are watching a person who is not like a college coach and demonstrative and yelling all the time, the assumption is that this guy is really laid back. And that’s not the case. You can have laid-back people who are the most intense people you’ll ever see.”
As another Kerr assistant (and soon-to-be Lakers head coach), Luke Walton, put it: “He has a fire. Obviously, you don’t play in the NBA for 15 years if you’re not super competitive.”
Apparently, this is nothing new for Kerr. In a video produced by the Positive Coaching Alliance, he divulged that he had a terrible temper when he played youth sports.
“It was embarrassing,” Kerr said in the video. “… I’d make an out in baseball or give up a hit, whatever, throw a tantrum, and my dad would always just be very patient. He didn’t say anything. Once I got home and calmed down a little bit, he’d talk to me: ‘Why’d you get so upset? And maybe it would be a good idea to try to be a little less emotional during the game.’ ”
That has been easier said than done for Kerr. Undersized and admittedly slow, he forged an NBA career on pure outside shooting, and on clenched-jaw tenacity. This is a player who once got into a yelling and shoving match with Michael Jordan when they were Chicago Bulls teammates, an interaction that left Kerr with a black eye.