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Steve Kerr is on the rooftop of a posh Beverly Hills hotel, surrounded by sweeping verdant hills and a luxurious pool. 

He reclines on a plush chair. It’s a breezy 75-degree day. He’s quick to laugh. He’s unfazed by a group of men sitting at the table next to him, stealing furtive glances at the nine-time championship player and coach.

When a waitress approaches with menus, the Golden State Warriors’ longtime president of communications tells her to put Kerr’s order on his room tab. Flashing a smile, Kerr jokingly asks if they serve lobster. (He orders an arugula salad with avocado and chicken.)

By all appearances, Kerr seems carefree. 

But that belies one of the most challenging seasons of his coaching career, which has included shepherding Draymond Green past an indefinite suspension, getting two future Hall of Famers in Klay Thompson and Chris Paul to accept coming off the bench, developing the young players while managing their expectations and being the team’s compass when assistant coach Dejan Milojevic died after suffering a heart attack at a team dinner.

Kerr helped keep the wheels on the bus despite all the potholes. Yet, he was often scapegoated for the team’s rocky play amid the ever-present threat of the league’s modern-day dynasty crumbling.

Now, the Warriors find themselves in 10th place in the Western Conference and needing two play-in wins to make the postseason, starting with Tuesday’s game against the 9-seed Sacramento Kings. That’s hardly exciting for a team that won four championships in eight years.

But it also means they still have a pulse. 

Are the Warriors the most trustworthy West play-in team?

Are the Warriors the most trustworthy West play-in team?

“The way the league is right now, there’s so little difference between the 1-seed and the 10-seed,” Kerr told FOX Sports in a wide-ranging interview.  “If we can find our way in, I think we have a chance.”

Kerr knows better than anyone that even the greatest of dynasties dissolve. He won three championships alongside Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, including the franchise’s final title in 1998. Afterward, Jordan retired and Scottie Pippen was traded to Houston. 

As for the Warriors? He acknowledges their years are numbered. Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, who have played together for 12 years and under Kerr for a decade, are each in their mid-30s. And the longest-tenured trio in league history is facing imminent uncertainty, with Thompson set to become a free agent this summer.

Kerr is aware things are winding down, making him want to embrace and enjoy every opportunity.  

“We’re not at the end,” Kerr said. “But we’re probably on the 15th hole, 16th hole.”

***

Immediately after shootaround, Kerr drove to Draymond Green’s home in Los Angeles on Dec. 14.

After coaching him for 10 years, he felt this coming. He saw the water receding. He knew a tidal wave was brewing. 

Green was at an inflection point in his career, something Kerr foresaw from the beginning of the season. He believes Green was suffering from an emotional hangover stemming from last year, when a leaked video of Green punching then-teammate Jordan Poole at practice went viral. Afterward, Green didn’t play with his requisite fire, and the Warriors were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs. Adding to his frustration, Green went on to miss training camp and the first three games of this season because of an ankle injury. 

“It was pretty obvious that he was in a bad place, mentally, emotionally,” Kerr said. 

It didn’t take long for disaster to strike. 

[NBA Championship odds: Warriors listed at +8500]

On Nov. 15, Green was suspended for five games after putting Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert in a headlock. Less than a month later, the NBA suspended him indefinitely after he struck Phoenix Suns center Jusuf Nurkic in the face.

The following day, instead of preparing for a game against the LA Clippers later that evening, Kerr sat in Green’s backyard. 

Draymond Green isn’t perfect, but he’s valuable for the Warriors

Draymond Green isn't perfect, but he's valuable for the Warriors

Kerr has had many talks with Green, whom he has long called the heartbeat of the Warriors. The Warriors are best when Green is playing on the edge, brimming with unbridled intensity. He often dips his toe over the line. But now, the NBA clearly felt as though he were unsafe for the league, and his career was seemingly dangling in the balance. 

Kerr needed to speak to him. 

“This is your life,” Kerr told Green, as his 3-year-old daughter, Dash, ran around them playing. “You’ve built this amazing life for yourself and your family. Where are you heading with this?”

Green soaked it in. 

“He said everything he had to say,” Green told FOX Sports. “I said everything I had to say. The moral of the story was: ‘I want you to finish the right way. I want us to end this the right way. I don’t like to see people saying what they’re saying, taking away from what you’ve accomplished. Whether this is the last year, or whether the last year is four years from now, let’s just make sure we finish it how we started. I want that for you.”

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Kerr emphasized that even after Green’s playing days are over, his possibilities are endless. He could become the next Charles Barkley or Kenny Smith for TNT. He has a successful podcast. With his basketball IQ, he could even coach. It would be a shame to jeopardize his future.

Green didn’t get defensive. When Kerr pointed out that Green’s apologies were always followed by a “but,” Green volunteered that his wife, Hazel, had recently chided him for the same thing. “He’s like, ‘You’re right, you’re right, I have to stop doing that,'” Kerr recalled Green saying.

Kerr called the conversation natural, the type of interaction that’s born from 10 years of frank talks, screaming matches and deep affection.

“If it were my first year coaching, it would’ve been really hard to do that,” Kerr said. “But he trusts me. And I trust him. And that’s why we’ve stuck together. He could’ve driven me out of here five years ago. That’s what players do in the NBA these days. And I could’ve not supported him. Or I could’ve gone elsewhere. There’s a reason why we’re still together. We love each other.”

Green returned after 12 games and has mostly avoided trouble since, barring an ejection against Orlando last month after getting back-to-back technicals for arguing with a referee. But Kerr views that incident as the typical double-edged sword that accompanies Green’s fire, as opposed to him being out of control.

Draymond ejected in first quarter of win vs. Magic

Draymond ejected in first quarter of win vs. Magic

“If he gets the occasional technical or even an ejection, I’ll take it,” Kerr said.

“But what he can’t do is go further than that, which is what he did earlier in the season. And he knows that.”

As for Green, Kerr’s words are still resonating. 

“It was a beautiful conversation,” Green told FOX Sports. “We both sat in my backyard and cried. He cried. I cried. But it meant the world to me because at a time when my character is being questioned for something that happened on a basketball court, and they question you as a man, as a human being, that’s crazy, during that time, he was there constantly checking in. It meant the world to me.”

***

Kerr had a tricky dilemma this season. 

He returned all five starters from the 2022 championship team (Curry, Thompson, Green, Andrew Wiggins and Kevon Looney). And during the offseason, the Warriors acquired Chris Paul, who is widely considered one of the greatest point guards of all time. Something had to give. 

Instead of issuing an edict from his so-called pulpit on who would be dropped from the starting lineup, Kerr called a meeting with those six players. He wanted a group decision. He needed buy-in. 

Paul ultimately made the sacrifice, no small task for a player who had started all previous of his 1,365 games over 19 seasons. 

“A collaboration makes it cleaner and simple,” Kerr said. “We’re going to talk about this and we’ll make a decision, and if it doesn’t work, we’ll move on to the next thing. That doesn’t allow anybody to sit there and say, ‘That’s really stupid.’ Well, you were part of this!”

Chris Paul’s expectations with Warriors

Chris Paul's expectations with Warriors

Kerr is uniquely positioned to navigate feelings and egos. He played alongside some of the biggest stars in NBA history in Jordan, Tim Duncan and David Robinson. He knows he has to speak to guys differently. He knows how to inspire sacrifice after being called upon to do it on a nightly basis as a player. 

But, in many ways, this year has been the ultimate test of his skills. Not only did he need to keep Green from self-destructing and cleverly nudge Paul to set aside his pride, but he had to walk Thompson off a mental cliff. 

Ever since Thompson was robbed of two seasons because of back-to-back ACL and Achilles injuries, he has desperately wanted to feel like his old self, you know, the guy who was considered one of the greatest shooters in NBA history. But Thompson hasn’t consistently played at that level. 

Through the top of January, Thompson was averaging just 16.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists while shooting a career-low 37.7% from the field. He was down. Frustrated. Angry. 

Kerr zeroed in on Thompson’s anguish, imploring him to appreciate the present before his career is in the rearview mirror.  

“He was so bitter and disappointed that he missed two years of his prime,” Kerr said. “He’s human, any of us would be. When there’s nothing you can do about something, you have to move past it. You have to move on.”

It’s no secret that this is an especially tough time for Thompson, who is earning $43.2 million this season and reportedly turned down a two-year, $48 million extension last summer. Thompson’s earning power has likely decreased. And in February, he was asked to come off the bench for a franchise that he helped put on the map. 

Through it all, Thompson keeps coming back to the conversation he had with Kerr. 

“Steve has seen it all, really, during his time in the NBA,” Thompson said. “That conversation just helped me relax a little bit. Instead of chasing past greatness, just be appreciative of what I’m able to do now.”

***

There’s something relatable about Kerr.

He shirks social media, but will happily talk to any fans who approach him during his walks through the Presidio, a park in San Francisco. He can afford the most expensive restaurants, but on a recent trip to Los Angeles he chose to eat dinner at his 89-year-old mother’s home in the Pacific Palisades. He’s competitive enough to trash-talk Jordan into punching him in the face, but kind enough to spend hours motivating the 15th man on the roster.

He ascribes to the “life over basketball” philosophy after being coached by Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich, the Zen Master and the Wine Master. Relationships are always his priority.  And above all else, he’s a doting husband and father of three. 

That’s why when Milojevic suffered a heart attack at a team dinner in January, nothing mattered more to him than trying to help Milojevic’s wife and two children.

“You don’t think about anything other than you’ve gotta take care of their family,” Kerr said. “So, that’s what we tried to do.”

Out of respect for their privacy, Kerr hasn’t wanted to divulge the details of their conversations. But Kerr has made it clear that he knew exactly what they were going through. 

When Kerr was 18 years old, his father, Malcolm was assassinated by terrorists while serving as the president of the American University of Beirut. Ironically, Milojevic died just a few days before the 40th anniversary of Kerr’s father’s death. 

The Warriors temporarily put their season on pause. The NBA postponed two games against Utah and Dallas. When the Warriors resumed practice a week later, Kerr wore a shirt with the word “Brate” on it, the Serbian word for brother.

In February, Kerr flew to Serbia to attend Milojevic’s funeral, alongside general manager Mike Dunleavy Jr., assistant coaches Chris DeMarco and Ron Adams, basketball operations consultant Zaza Pachulia and trainer Rick Celebrini. He gave assistant Kenny Atkinson his head coaching duties during that time.

“I don’t know if we’ll ever get over it,” Kerr said. “When I got on the plane today, Deki [Milojevic] used to sit right by Kenny — and that seat is empty. Loon and Dario [Saric] and Draymond, they all used to work with him and they miss him desperately. You just try to look after each other. But the people most affected is family, and, no matter what, they’re still left without a father and a husband.”

Kerr was tasked with refocusing a traumatized team. He thought about what Milojevic would’ve wanted. He imagined him saying, “You motherf—s need to go win a basketball game.”

So, he has put his head down and tried to fulfill his friend’s wishes. 

***

Despite everything Kerr has done to keep the Warriors afloat, he has been heavily criticized this season. 

He was blamed for the team’s lackluster record. There was a report Jonathan Kuminga had lost faith in him after he was benched for the final 18 minutes of a loss to the Denver Nuggets in January. Detractors have even called for him to be fired at various points throughout the season.

Does it bother him?

“Hell yes it does,” said Kerr, whose nine championships closely trail Bill Russell’s and Jackson’s record of 11.

Is the Warriors dynasty over?

Is the Warriors dynasty over?

Kerr stopped using social media years ago because he didn’t want to be subjected to outsiders’ opinions. (His last post on Twitter was March 2021.) He encourages his players to avoid it, too. 

He describes coaching as more of an art than a science. He makes his decisions based on instinct and closely reading his players. If he draws up a failed ATO or makes a poor substitution, it haunts him more than anyone else’s words could.

“I’m my own worst critic and I stay up all night after games like that,” Kerr said. “Those are hard nights, but that’s part of the gig.”

Kerr has a .707 winning percentage in the playoffs, the best in NBA history. He led the Warriors to 73 wins in 2015-16, the most in regular season history. In mid-February, he won his 500th game. And this year, he kept the team from unraveling. 

In Curry’s eyes, Kerr has been the team’s glue.  

“I don’t envy that job at all because it’s difficult,” Curry said. It’s about managing people and keeping people motivated to say, ‘Hey, whatever you’re asked to do, go do it. And [whatever] helps the team.’  He’s very consistent with that message. At the end of the day, I’d say he’s done a great job of balancing it all.”

Kerr signed a two-year, $35 million contract extension with the Warriors in February, The average value of that contract, $17.5 million, is the most for an NBA coach. 

“I never in a million years could have imagined that my life would be in basketball and that I would achieve this kind of wealth through a game,” he said. “… If the price for that is for people to say I should be fired, that’s a pretty good tradeoff.” 

***

During a recent game against the Houston Rockets, Kerr couldn’t help but take stock of the Warriors’ unprecedented longevity. 

As the public address announcer went through the starting lineups, Kerr realized not a single player remained on the Rockets’ roster from the last time the teams met in the playoffs in 2019. 

It drove home how blessed Kerr is to be coaching the same superstar trio he had when he first took over the Warriors’ helm in 2014. 

If things go as planned, Kerr hopes they’ll stay together until the end. 

“Draymond signed a four-four extension, Steph’s got another couple of years [on his contract], I’m hoping and I think Klay will re-sign, so, we have this gift,” Kerr said. “Let’s make the most of it and do this right, with dignity. Who knows how many games we will win or if we’ll win another championship, but let’s do it right.”

When it comes to the dynasty’s conclusion, Kerr is more focused on the how than the when

Paul Pierce: ‘If Steph Curry wins NBA title this year, he’s top 5 of all time’

Paul Pierce: ‘If Steph Curry wins NBA title this year, he’s top 5 of all time’

He wants the trio to do things the right way, helping develop the young players as they have this year with rising star Kuminga, as well as Brandin Podziemski and Trayce Jackson-Davis, who are contenders to make the All-Rookie team. 

He hopes Green, Thompson and Curry can walk away on a high note, whenever they so choose, knowing that they’ll forever be in the history books for being part of one of the greatest teams of all time.

As for Kerr’s career, he often thinks about something Popovich does. At dinner, Popovich holds up his wine glass and says, “Here’s to Tim Duncan.” The message is clear: None of his success would’ve been possible without his star.

Kerr now toasts to Curry, knowing that he, Thompson and Green have helped him become one of the winningest sports figures in NBA history. 

“I’m not trying to be totally modest and say I had nothing to do with it,” Kerr said. “I did have something to do with it. And it made me proud. But the stars really aligned and there has to be a sense of honesty and humility. If the stars didn’t align, I could’ve gone to the Knicks and been fired after two years and never had any of these experiences.”

So, in the sunset of his second dynastic run, Kerr is filled with gratitude. 

And he’s doing his damndest to make sure everyone around him is, too. 

“I want this to end with contentment and dignity,” he said. “I want our players to feel proud.”

Melissa Rohlin is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the league for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, the Bay Area News Group and the San Antonio Express-News. Follow her on Twitter @melissarohlin.

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