The Warriors set an NBA record in 2016 by winning 73 games during the regular season. Then, they added Kevin Durant.
But the road to the 2017 NBA title was anything but easy for third-year Warriors’ head coach Steve Kerr.
Even though Kerr led a team loaded with future Hall of Famers and four NBA All-Stars to a championship, the personal battles he fought along the way threatened to keep him from the sidelines when his team took on the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In fact, Kerr wasn’t on the floor for the first game of the series, as he missed 11 NBA playoffs games after being sidelined by pain resulting from complications from back surgeries.
The playoff absence wasn’t the first time Kerr has been forced to step away from coaching, either.
After Golden State’s championship run in his rookie season as a coach in 2015, Kerr missed the first 43 games of the 2016 season as current Los Angeles Lakers’ coach Luke Walton stepped in for the Warriors’ ailing leader.
Though Kerr’s assistants –Walton and this year’s interim head coach Mike Brown– combined to help the Warriors to a 50-4 record in the games he’s missed over the past two seasons, everyone in the Warriors’ organization, from the owners to the players, know how much Kerr means to Golden State’s success.
So for Kerr, the opportunity to return to the sidelines last week and coach the final four games of the series was as rewarding as it gets, and one look at his face told the whole story.
A coach responsible for revitalizing the Warriors’ franchise and changing the dynamics of the NBA won his second title in three seasons on Monday, but for Kerr, just being able to handle the rigors of coaching again was a reward in and of itself.