Shepard: Jordan Helped Kerr Become One Of Greatest Coaches Ever

Michael Jordan once punched Steve Kerr in the face; Kerr didn't back down – a trait that has served him well as an NBA head coach

CBS Sports Radio Weekend
May 11, 2020 - 1:55 pm
Steve Kerr Michael Jordan

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By: David Shepard

It was the the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls training camp. Emotions were running high because a few months before this, Michael Jordan, for the first time since 1990, was eliminated in the postseason. We now know, in watching Episodes 7 and 8 of The Last Dance, that Jordan clocked Steve Kerr in the eye after they got into an altercation during training camp. Jordan tested Kerr's manhood, and Kerr didn't back down one bit. He stood up to MJ.

Jordan gained respect for Kerr after this incident. Kerr showed he wasn't going to back down from anyone, not even Jordan himself. This not only only resulted in Kerr becoming a vital member of the Bulls’ three-peat championship teams in the late-1990s. Kerr took the lessons and swagger of the late-1990s Bulls teams and turned it into to becoming one of the top-five coaches in NBA history. Look no further than what he has done as a head coach with the Golden State Warriors.


-Kerr has a .733 win percentage. That is the best of any coach in postseason history. Gregg Popovich, one of the greatest coaches in NBA history, has a .599 win percentage in the playoffs. Quite the difference.

-Kerr has won as many conference finals as a head coach as Larry Brown and Red Holzman combined. Both are in the Naismith Hall of Fame.

-Kerr has won as many NBA titles as a head coach as Red Holzman, Larry Brown and Jerry Sloan combined. All three of these coaches are Naismith Hall of Famers.

-The NBA at 50 came out in the late 1990s with the top 10 coaches in NBA history. Obviously all ten coaches on this list are Naismith Hall of Famers. Kerr already has more postseason wins than six of those 10 coaches. (Jack Ramsey, Don Nelson, Chuck Daly, John Kundla, Red Holzman and Bill Fitch). Just a reminder, Kerr hasn't even coached a full six seasons yet.

Kerr began with the Warriors in the 2014-15 season. Look at what he accomplished in each postseason since:

2015- After getting knocked out of the first round the season before this, they go 16-5 on their way to the first title of the Kerr era.

2016- Draymond Green gets suspended for Game 5. The Warriors blow a 3-1 series lead. BUT, they still go 15-9 for the postseason.

2017 - The Warriors bounce back and finish with the best postseason record in NBA history at 16-1.

2018- The Warriors sweep the Cavs in the Finals and go 16-5 in the postseason.

If you combine the 2017 and 2018 postseason, the Warriors went 32-6. That means they won more than 84 percent of their postseason games over a span of two years. The best team in the NBA last season, a 60-win Bucks team, won 73 percent of their games in the REGULAR Season.
2019 - Kevin Durant misses Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals, and the Warriors still win on the road against the Rockets to advance to the Western Conference Finals. Without Durant, the Warriors sweep the Blazers in the Western Conference Finals. They did lose to the Raptors in the Finals in six games, but Durant missed five games in the series. The one game he played in, they won. Klay Thompson also missed Game 3.


-Yes Kerr is 35 games under .500 this season. With that being said, he is still one of 13 coaches in regular-season history to be 100 games over .500. Again, he hasn’t even coached SIX full seasons yet.

-He has overseen the greatest regular-season record (73-9 in the 2015-16 season) in NBA history. 

-Thirteen times in NBA history, a team has won 67 games in the regular season. Three of those teams have been coached by Kerr. They won at least 67 games THREE SEASONS IN A ROW. The first three years of Kerr's coaching career.


-Mark Jackson coached the Warriors the season before Kerr got there, and they had the same core group of guys in Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bogut and Harrison Barnes. They got knocked out of the playoffs in the first round, the season before Kerr got there.

-Steve Kerr shows up with no big additions the following season and the same core group of guys. They go 16-5 in the postseason and win the NBA title.

-In the Steve Kerr Era, the last time the Warriors weren’t in the finals (obviously the Finals hasn’t happened yet this season) Zion was 13 years old.

-The Warriors' best player from last season in Kevin Durant is no longer there.

-Their second-best player from last season in Steph Curry has played in five of their 65 games this season (8 percent of their games).

-Their third-best player, Klay Thompson, hasn't played a single game this season due to injury.

-Their fourth-best player, Draymond Green, has played in 43 of their 65 games this season. Not even two-thirds of their games.

-Their fifth-best player last season, Andre Iguodala, is no longer there.

-Their sixth-best player from last season, DeMarcus Cousins, is no longer there.

-Their seventh-best player from last season in Shaun Livingston retired.

-If you look at their seven best players from last season, they have played in 9 percent of their games this season. The fact that the Warriors have even won 15 games says something.

Moral of the story

Kerr wasn't the happiest of campers after being punched in the face by Jordan in that 1995-96 Bulls Training Camp. Who would be after an incident like that? It's my belief that Steve Kerr in that moment showed he wasn't afraid to go toe-to-toe with the greatest of all-time. I believe he had earned Jordan's respect that day. That translated into a championship game-winning shot by Kerr in the 1997 NBA Finals. It also translated to Kerr becoming a pivotal part of a three-peat Bulls team in the late 1990s. This ultimately propelled him to become one of the greatest coaches the NBA has ever seen. 

Jordan may have clocked Steve Kerr in the eye that day, but it would be safe to assume Kerr would not be where is today without Jordan. Credit has to go to Jordan for making his teammates better in the long run and to Kerr for taking that punch and only coming back stronger. Winning three titles in your first four years of coaching – and five NBA titles as a player – certainly qualifies as that.

CBS Sports Radio producer David Shepard is a former ESPN researcher, a former Division I college basketball practice player, and the host of The Good Shepard YouTube channel. Follow him on Twitter @TheGoodShepard_.