BOSTON — With one career milestone out of the way, it was coach Steve Kerr’s turn Friday at TD Garden.
With a 111-107 win against the Boston Celtics, Kerr recorded his 400th career coaching victory, becoming the third coach in Warriors history to reach the milestone and doing so at the fifth-fastest pace in NBA history. It took Kerr 576 tries to win 400 games, a .694 regular-season winning percentage that doesn’t account for the postseason success that produced four consecutive Finals appearances and three championships.
“It means I’m incredibly lucky to coach a bunch of talented guys,” Kerr said. “From my first game coaching in the NBA until now, I’ve had nothing but talented teams. That’s just good fortune. So I love coaching these guys, I love being part of all this with them and very lucky.”
Only two Warriors coaches have won more games: Alvin Attles (557; 1970-83) and Don Nelson (422; 1988-95), and only four coaches in NBA history have reached 400 wins faster: Pat Riley (540), Phil Jackson (557), K.C. Jones (564) and Billy Cunningham (572).
Right behind Kerr, now, is his longtime friend and mentor Gregg Popovich, who needed his first 611 games with the San Antonio Spurs to record 400 wins.
The pageantry of Steph Curry’s 3-point record Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden was lost on no one, but it could have been an equally fitting venue for Kerr’s milestone. Before he became the Warriors coach in 2014, he almost teamed up with another longtime friend and mentor Phil Jackson with the New York Knicks.
However, Kerr spurned New York to take the helm of a Golden State squad that already had a core of Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. In a recent interview with Jon Stewart, Kerr said the reason was obvious.
“I talked to coaching friends of mine and they all said the same thing,” Kerr said. “They said, ‘Your talent is everything in coaching’ and it’s true. I remember saying, ‘Well, Phil Jackson is my guy.’ And one of my friends said, ‘Which job do you think Phil would take?’ I was like, ‘Ooh, man.’ That kind of got me.
“Think about it, Phil Jackson takes the Bulls job when he’s got Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and his career takes off. Pat Riley takes the Lakers job when he’s got Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. We’re all dependent on talent as coaches, and the Warriors were already good.”
Kerr has previously described himself as “lucky” for stepping into the situation he did. The Warriors won 50 games the season before he arrived, but Kerr helped elevate the existing core into the greatest basketball dynasty of the 21st century.
In Kerr’s first season, Curry won his first of two MVP trophies and the Warriors won their first NBA championship in 40 years. They reached the Finals the next three seasons and won two more titles. Off to a 24-5 start this season, they appear to be a strong contender to add a fourth championship to Kerr’s resume.
Going on eight years after Kerr chose the Warriors, the only party unsatisfied by the outcome are probably the New York Knicks, who have since churned through five head coaches. Kerr believes he would have faced the same fate.
“Honestly, if I had taken the Knicks job,” he said, “I would’ve been spun through that cycle and gone in two years, guaranteed.”