Steve Kerr, the head coach of the Golden State Warriors, will return to the bench Friday against the Indiana Pacers after recovering from back surgery while Luke Walton took over as interim coach.
Sean Highkin of Bleacher Report provided the Warriors' press release:
ESPN's Marc Stein first reported the news.
While Kerr was gone, the Warriors continued to thrive under Walton, earning 24 straight victories to start the season. Walton was named Coach of the Month in November, though the team's wins under its interim leader were officially credited to Kerr.
Kerr, 50, worked with Walton in practices and was present behind the scenes, but Walton handled all in-game responsibilities, according to the New York Times' Benjamin Hoffman.
"I didn't think one bit about who we were playing or when," Kerr said, per Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle. "It was strictly about how I was feeling."
"I thought maybe he’d be 40-3, but 39-4, I’ll have to settle for that," Kerr said about Walton's performance, per Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group.
"I want to be as laid-back as Luke," he said, per Ray Woodson of Sportsphone 680. "He's actually added some things to playbook."
Kerr also addressed the upcoming All-Star Game, per Leung:
I had heard they might send (Luke Walton), which I found amusing because they didn't give him any wins. It's the only reason I'm (back) is to make Pop spend his [All-Star] break at the game instead of on some beach with a mai tai in his hand. I know that if they did it by the normal rule that Gregg Popovich would be going to [Toronto], and I know how excited Pop is to coach another [All-Star Game].
Kerr, a former Chicago Bull, broadcaster and NBA general manager, took over as the Warriors' head coach before the 2014-15 season, leading the team to a 67-15 record and an NBA title.
While the foundation in Golden State was set for Kerr—and a core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green was already in place—the new coach drastically improved a team that had been on the precipice of greatness under previous head coach Mark Jackson but could never quite get over the hump.
The Warriors played better defense under Kerr while also proving to be one of the most exciting offensive teams in recent memory. And while they didn't miss a beat while the head coach was sidelined, the entire organization will benefit from having the mastermind of Golden State's success since last season back on the bench.
Kerr returns amidst bizarre expectations considering the success he had with last year's championship team, but Walton's ability to hold up the standard this season means Kerr will be expected to do the same.
The Warriors have the talent to continue marching through the NBA regular season, and they should be expected to do so barring injuries or an unexpected adjustment period for Kerr as he returns to the sideline.