LOS ANGELES — Steve Kerr has plenty of experience with dynasties. Before coaching the Golden State Warriors to three NBA titles in four years Kerr was a part of Michael Jordan’s three-peat Bulls in the late 1990s, and after that, won a title in 2003 with the San Antonio Spurs under Gregg Popovich.
Before this season, the Warriors added All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins to a lineup that already included four All-Stars (and arguably four Hall of Famers), prompting many to declare the regular season moot, because there was little that would hold Golden State back from an unprecedented fifth straight trip to the NBA Finals, and a historic fourth title in five years.
Before the Warriors faced the Los Angeles Clippers in the third game of their first-round playoff series, Kerr was asked what it was like “to be inevitable.” With cracks deepening between Kerr and his free-agent-to-be star forward Kevin Durant, with Cousins’ season likely ended by a torn quad, just three days after Golden State had coughed up a 31-point third-quarter lead in the biggest playoff collapse in NBA history, Kerr smiled.
“I grew up here in Los Angeles, and, when I was 10-years old, I watched UCLA beat Kentucky for the national championship,” Kerr said. “It was their 10th national title in 20 years. At 10-years old, and as a UCLA fan, I thought it was just going to happen forever.”
Right after that title game, John Wooden, 11 years older than Kerr is now, retired. The Bruins didn’t win another national title until 1995, with current Warriors general manager Bob Myers on the team. They haven’t won another one since.
Kerr’s point: Nothing lasts forever, and as he’s preached over the last two seasons, winning multiple titles in a row gets progressively more and more difficult, especially with a core that’s remained together throughout the run. Kerr saw first-hand how the Jordan Bulls were dismantled after the 1997-98 season. That team, though, knew it was going to get blown up, because Jordan had said it would be his final season. That, Kerr has said, is why it was called the “Last Dance.”
Bob Myers has routinely said that the goal for Golden State is to keep the ride going, to remain competitive, if not a championship contender, every year. Bob and Joe Lacob — who sat courtside for Thursday’s Game 3 — have pledged to pay as much as needed to keep who they need to keep in order to bring a championship product into Chase Center in a year. That’s included going over the luxury tax. With Klay Thompson’s contract coming to an end after this season, Draymond Green’s a year from now, Kevin Durant expected to opt out of the final year of his second straight one-and-one contract and Andre Iguodala expected to retire (he’s intimated that it may very well be at the end of this season), it may be the end of this current run.
Kerr, however, has taken inspiration and instruction from Poppovich — having played under him for three years — and Bill Belichick, reading several books on the New England Patriots. Both of those franchises have been able to be consistent championship contenders with continually changing casts of characters.
“Sports are just, the reason people are so attracted to sports is that none of us know what’s going to happen,” Kerr said. “You do your best to build a good team and a solid team and you hope to get some luck along the way. I think we’ve done that, and we’ve experienced the luck. It’s all part of it. You don’t worry about expectations. Just go out there, play and do your best and see if you can sustain it for a long time. But, everything comes to an end.”
Thompson has said he wants to be a Warrior for his entire career. Curry is likely not going anywhere. No team would be likely to pay Draymond Green the max contract he would likely demand on the open market (and even if they would, no one would be able to offer him more than Golden State, because of his Bird rights). Cousins, having rehabbed for almost 12 months to get back on the court, is likely to not draw much interest on the free agent market because of his second major injury. Given that it’s thought he enjoys the Bay Area, and his complementary role with the Warriors — rather than being the face of a franchise — it’s not improbable that he returns next season, as well. While that team wouldn’t be a prohibitive favorite, it wouldn’t be one of those 20-win Golden State teams of decades past.
“We’re just trying to keep this going as long as we can,” Kerr said.