Steve Kerr was looking for a way to motivate his team, and he found one Monday night against the Suns. He allowed Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green, and David West to take over in the huddle. He even allowed them to make strategic decisions and draw up plays.
Kerr’s decision worked. His Warriors (44-13), which had lost three of their previous six games, beat Phoenix, 129-83. Unfortunately, Kerr was criticized for the move, with detractors arguing his ploy was disrespectful to the Suns.
B.J. Armstrong, who played with Kerr in Chicago in the mid-1990s, disagrees.
“Well, I think on the outside to people looking in, I could definitely see why people would say that’s disrespectful,” Armstrong said on Reiter Than You. “I can definitely see that point. But in playing in the NBA and now being 50 years of age, I see what Steve and his coaching staff was trying to do. I think we as human beings all work better when we take responsibility for our own outcome in life. This is a situation where the Warriors and that team, the players are taking responsibility and holding themselves accountable because it’s their team. It’s not Steve Kerr’s team. It’s the players who actually are playing. It’s their team. When people hold themselves accountable, when people take responsibility and people feel a sense of responsibility to the group and the performance of the group, you see them have a more effective group.”
Armstrong, to be clear, doesn’t think that all coaches should do what Kerr did. But for a group as talented and as accomplished as Golden State, the move was right on the money.
“I wouldn’t recommend that way of thinking for amateurs or kids not having the direction of a coach,” Armstrong said. “But for a group of professionals who have been together for three or four years, who have been playing at a championship level, you’re talking about a different set of problems that just doesn’t exist year in and year out as teams are trying to put together chemistry and so forth. I definitely applauded Steve for what he did. I thought it was great. I applaud him because he went into his bag of tricks and he went into his own imagination. A lot of times, you see this league where it’s just a copycat league. One team runs a play and another team will run the play. But Steve certainly does not have a lack of imagination and he has no fear of using his creativity to find ways to motivate his team.
“Remember: this team has been in the Finals three years in a row now,” Armstrong continued. “You can only motivate a team so many ways. They’re tired of listening to his voice. I can recall that listening to Phil Jackson’s voice for many years. At some point, you have to hold yourself accountable, and I thought Steve did it. He said, ‘This is your team, guys. I’m just here to guide you. Let’s live in the present moment, but I need you guys to take some responsibility as well.’ I thought it was a brilliant move by Steve Kerr and his staff to have the courage to do that, but more importantly to trust his team to know that in the end, we all want the same thing, which is winning. I thought it was a phenomenal move.”