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Steve Kerr and Doc Rivers talk about what JJ Redick might face if he coaches Lakers

Broderick Turner, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Basketball

On Sept. 30, 2014, Steve Kerr presided over his first practice as the head coach of an NBA team. Kerr was now the man in charge of the Golden State Warriors, a job he took without the benefit of any previous coaching experience.

Kerr looked out before him and saw the faces of stars Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green staring back at him, waiting for the newbie to put his coaching plan in place on that initial day.

"It was a little bit of a s— show, to be honest. I had these plans with the coaching staff beforehand, but it was like the first day of school, only I was a brand new teacher," Kerr, laughing, recalled about his first day coaching the Warriors. "You have to get through the bumps in the road and iron things out. But I remember the first two days were a little chaotic. I was trying to do a lot of things. I quickly realized that you don't have nearly as enough time as you thought you would to address every issue. And that's a big part of it."

If JJ Redick gets the Los Angeles Lakers' head coaching job that seems destined to become his, according to people not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, having the right staff will be beneficial since he has no coaching experience.

Kerr won five NBA championships as a player. He became a minority owner of the Phoenix Suns upon retiring, then the president of basketball operations and general manager of the team. He left that post and to join TNT as an analyst until leaving that job in 2014 to become coach of the Warriors.

What he quickly learned during the early practice sessions and in games throughout his maiden voyage as a coach was to lean on his highly capable and experienced staff.

Kerr turned to former coach Alvin Gentry and Ron Adams, considered the savant of assistant coaches at the time in the NBA, for advice.

"I was lucky I had Ron Adams and Alvin Gentry with me. Although I shouldn't call it luck. I purposely hired them because I knew I would need their expertise," said Kerr, who won the first of his four NBA championships in that rookie season. "And they were great, they were fantastic and helped me through that transition process."

The Los Angeles Times spoke to five former players who became head coaches without having been on the bench in that role and each was adamant the sage assistants are important to have for guidance.

Redick, who played 15 seasons in the NBA, is an analyst for ABC/ESPN and has his "Mind the Game" podcast with Lakers superstar LeBron James.

"If JJ does get the job, JJ has been out of the game for a few years and had an opportunity to be around guys in other settings," said Derek Fisher, the Crespi High coach who won five NBA titles with the Lakers before he became a first-time coach with the New York Knicks in 2014.

"Like, he has a podcast with LeBron. That didn't necessarily exist when I was making that transition. But it's a good example of how different that is for even a guy that may not have previous experience coaching. It's really the relationships with players that drive your success to a large degree anyway. So, if you're in a position where you have that to lean on, it does help cushion the experience part. That's something that the collection of individuals on the staff can help offset the lack of coaching experience."

The pull to become a coach for Doc Rivers came after 13 years in the NBA as a player and three years working for TNT after his retirement, calls from legendary coaches Pat Riley and Chuck Daly sparking his interest.

So Rivers, currently the coach of Milwaukee, took the job with the Orlando Magic in 1999 without any experience. But he had former head coaches Dave Wohl and Johnny Davis by his side.

Rivers recalled how a few games into his first season he wanted to change his offense.

 

Wohl and Davis told Rivers that "you can't do that," because they had installed a new offense in training camp.

Still, Rivers was insistent.

"I said, 'Yeah, I'm going to do it.' And they were all against it, and I did it," said Rivers, who was selected coach of the year in his first season. "It changed our team because it fit what we were. It took guts. So, that taught me a lot. You are going to be wrong sometimes, but you got to be willingly wrong and you got to be willing to take chances. I thought that was the biggest lesson that year."

Mark Jackson was a point guard in the NBA for 17 seasons before he joined ESPN as an analyst. Yet, Jackson yearned to be an NBA coach, figuring his time as a point guard made him a coach on the court that would translate even if he lacked any experience on the bench.

"I wouldn't say learn as you go along," said Jackson, who took over the Warriors in 2011. "There are certain things that you have to learn that you didn't do as a player. Now you're making the decisions, decisions that you never thought about making like, 'Do we stay overnight? Do we leave after the game? What time is practice? How long do we practice?' I was fortunate to have good people around me, as far as my staff, particularly Mike Malone and Pete Myers, guys that had been assistants for a long time. They made life easier for me."

When Vinny Del Negro became a first-time coach with the Chicago Bulls in 2008, he hired former head coaches Del Harris and Bernie Bickerstaff to show him the ins and outs of being the man in charge.

Del Negro also took another approach to help in his learning curve.

"When I got the Chicago job, I went and coached the team in the summer league," he said. "I just jumped right in. I needed that. Everyday you do it, every game, you get a little bit more comfortable and you understand things a little bit better and you're learning your players, and you know things you can do better every game. That's what you are doing on a daily basis."

As he began to think about coaching, Kerr said he spent years preparing how to interview for jobs and what kind of coaching philosophy he wanted to develop.

Kerr said some of the best advice he got about becoming a coach was from Jeff Van Gundy, a former Knicks and Rockets coach.

"I asked his advice and I said, 'If you were me and just getting started and wanted to prepare for an interview and prepare to become a coach, what would you do?'" Kerr said. "And he said, 'Everytime you stop and think about what kind of coach you want to be, write it down. Whatever you are thinking, write it down.

"Before long, you are going to collect your thoughts, you're going to have them on paper, you're going to be able to look at them and think about them and adapt them and put together a philosophy that you can present to somebody.' And it was the best advice anybody gave me."

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©2024 Los Angeles Times. Visit latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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