OAKLAND, Calif. — The Golden State Warriors are taking another chance on a television analyst and former NBA guard who has never been a head coach at any level.
The Warriors won the bidding war with the New York Knicks for Steve Kerr on Wednesday, hiring him away from the TNT broadcast table to be their coach. Kerr agreed to a five-year, $25 million deal with Golden State, said his agent, Mike Tannenbaum.
The Warriors confirmed the agreement Wednesday night and said they will introduce Kerr at a news conference after the contract is complete.
Kerr had been in talks with the Knicks about becoming their coach since Phil Jackson took over as team president in March. He won three titles playing for Jackson in Chicago and another two under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio.
Kerr, 48, also spent three seasons as general manager of the Phoenix Suns before stepping down in June 2010. He replaces Mark Jackson, who was fired by the Warriors on May 6 after three seasons and back-to-back playoff appearances mostly due to a sour relationship between him and team management.
Kerr said last month that he has wanted to coach since going back to his job at TNT. And while the lure of building a contender with his mentor at Madison Square Garden looked appealing, the chance to coach a Western Conference contender in his home state proved to be too much.
The Warriors job is certainly a far more attractive one than when owner Joe Lacob hired Jackson away from the ESPN/ABC broadcast table in June 2011. The Warriors are coming off a 51-win season and consecutive playoff appearances for the first time in 20 years, and they’ve surrounded star Stephen Curry with a talented young core.
Kerr became the hottest coaching candidate on the market after Phil Jackson started courting him to the Knicks two months ago. Kerr also has close ties to Lacob, his son, assistant GM Kirk Lacob, and Warriors President Rick Welts, who worked in Phoenix’s front office during Kerr’s time as Suns general manager.
Given the disagreements that occurred between Jackson and Warriors management last season — and the back-and-forth that played out between them in the media after Jackson was dismissed — having an established relationship with Kerr was a big reason Lacob wanted him as coach.
Last week, Lacob lauded Kerr as a candidate and defended the decision to change coaches — which has been debated at great lengths in the basketball-united Bay Area. He compared the decision to how he built his fortune as a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley.
Lacob said there’s a different person to lead a business at different stages of development, and the Warriors have gone from a “startup” company to an organization looking to maximize its output.
“Or in this case win an NBA championship,” he said. “And we just felt overall we needed a different person to go forward and get to the next level.”
And while Kerr has no coaching experience, he played 15 seasons and — also similar to Mark Jackson — he has been around some of the most successful sideline leaders.
Kerr has credited Phil Jackson and Tex Winter for most of his basketball knowledge. Winter taught the triangle offense and was a longtime assistant for Jackson, who used the system to win an NBA-record 11 championships as a coach of the Bulls and Lakers.
Golden State also spoke with former Orlando Magic and Miami Heat coach Stan Van Gundy during its search. Van Gundy agreed to a deal with Detroit on Tuesday after the Pistons gave him control of basketball operations — something the Warriors wouldn’t do with general manager Bob Myers and Kirk Lacob in place.
The Warriors met with Kerr again on Tuesday night in Oklahoma City, where Kerr was calling the Thunder-Clippers game. And they apparently made a big enough impression — and contract offer — to land the man they wanted all along.