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SPORTS

Steve Kerr’s Son Finding His Way in Coaching Not Far from Where His Dad Leads NBA Stars

February 20, 2024

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (AP) — Nicholas Kerr is focused and serious as he paces the sidelines in front of the scorer’s table near his team bench.

“Get back! Get back! Get back! Get back!” he shouts, urging the Santa Cruz Warriors to hustle down and play defense.

Then there’s a moment Kerr finally lets his guard down a little, cracks a smile and starts chatting to people keeping statistics and working the game. Each day, the young coach strives to find a balance between fun and fire while leading Golden State’s development G League team, which has none of the big stars — like Stephen Curry — that his famous father gets to coach every day just a couple of hours away.

Nicholas Kerr isn’t sure he ever wants to coach at the highest level like dad, Steve. For now, it’s just about figuring out the best ways to help develop players and put them in position to be successful. Wins are starting to come, too. The Santa Cruz Warriors are 11-7 at the All-Star break, having bounced back from a slow start to earn victories in eight of their last 10.

“I love coaching basketball, and whatever that leads me to, we’ll see. I’m ambitious, but I don’t know. I just like doing fun jobs in the NBA or G League,” he said. “I feel like at this point next year I’ll be better at finding that balance in development versus coaching and strategy. I’m sure he went through that, too. It’s a lot of responsibility, but it’s a lot of fun.”

Even back in middle school basketball, Kerr never imagined he could match his father’s successful path from playing in the pros to the NBA bench.

Santa Cruz Warriors coach Nicholas Kerr watches players during the team’s basketball practice in Santa Cruz, Calif., Friday, Jan. 12, 2024. Each day, Kerr strives to find a balance between fun and fire while leading Golden State’s developmental G League team minus all the big stars – like Stephen Curry – his famous father, Steve Kerr, gets to work with every day. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

He didn’t even feel he had to try. His parents always encouraged him to just be himself, and Nicholas played collegiately first at San Diego before finishing with a season at California as a graduate student.

“It’s been that way my whole life and he’s never put any pressure on me, either, even as a player,” he said. “When I was in middle school, high school, college, I was never trying to live up to his legacy. I was trying to be myself, which is good, because that’s a hard one to live up to.”

Before landing in Santa Cruz, Nicholas spent time with his dad’s friend and mentor, Gregg Popovich, and the staff at the San Antonio Spurs. People kept urging him to coach in the G League to learn.

It just so happened that when the Warriors sent Nico Mannion and Jordan Poole to the G League bubble in 2021, they called on Kerr to go along and coach them. That was his break, an opportunity to take a step up from his position as video coordinator.

It was so much fun, the younger Kerr decided he wanted to do a full season, then spent the next two years as an assistant with Santa Cruz before taking on a larger role.

“You wouldn’t know that he’s Steve’s son,” said Sacramento Kings coach Mike Brown, a former top Warriors assistant. “Never did he take for granted, which he easily could have, who his father was — especially how successful Steve is and everything he touches in life. That selflessness, how humble he is, paid dividends because he’s a hard worker and very, very smart guy.”

That doesn’t mean the Kerrs never clashed, and Brown admires how Nicholas picked his moments to speak up when he didn’t agree with his dad but also kept quiet and observed to learn from different coaches’ styles.

Santa Cruz Warriors coach Nicholas Kerr, left, talks with assistant coach Noel Hightower during the team’s basketball practice in Santa Cruz, Calif., Friday, Jan. 12, 2024. Each day, Kerr strives to find a balance between fun and fire while leading Golden State’s developmental G League team minus all the big stars – like Stephen Curry – his famous father, Steve Kerr, gets to work with every day. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

It was during that 2017-18 season with the Spurs that Chip Engelland and Will Hardy provided Nicholas with guidance and examples of how to be a professional.

“He always carried himself with a certain presence, a quiet presence,” Brown said. “He never felt like he needed to try to show anybody how smart he was or anything like that.”

Steve Kerr is thrilled for his son and had a chance to watch him earlier in the Santa Cruz season. He appreciates how the G League team supports the development of not just players but also coaches and support staff.

“It wasn’t so much nerves, it was more just pride, it was just a great visual sitting there watching him on the sidelines and I yelled at the refs a couple times,” he said. “I felt like a good dad.”

Mother Margot went to see him coach in Santa Cruz on Jan. 15 for the first time and it felt so familiar. The 98-90 victory against the Long Island Nets that day kicked off a six-game winning streak.

“Nick and Steve have similar dispositions. Highly competitive, they’re both very modest, quiet,” she said. “Nick was never delusional about his basketball talent. He never thought he’d play pro, was really hoping to play in college. San Diego is a non-NBA caring city, so he definitely didn’t feel pressure from his peers. I will say, all he’s ever cared about is sports. There was zero chance he was going to be an investment banker, despite being a business major.”

Gui Santos, a Brazilian drafted 55th overall in the second round by Golden State in 2022 and a two-way player counted on by both Warriors teams, understands the challenges of following in a father’s footsteps. His dad, Deivisson, played professionally in Brazil.

“Everybody’s looking at you like, ‘You’ve got to be like your dad, you’ve got to be better than your dad,’” Santos said. “Nick is taking his own way, he’s doing his own things. For sure, he’s Steve Kerr’s son and proud of him but I’m sure he wants to chase his own way and make his name.”


By JANIE McCAULEY AP Sports Writer

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