Arguably the most impressive thing about the Golden State Warriors’ historic start to the 2015-16 season is that they’re doing it without their head coach, Steve Kerr. Kerr has been sidelined for the first month of the season and will continue to be out indefinitely as he recovers from complications suffered during a pair of back surgeries this offseason.
Assistant Luke Walton has been handed the interim head coach tag and has done a superb job of shepherding the Warriors to a 15-0 record, tied for the best start to an NBA season in league history. And they have a chance to assume sole ownership of that record on Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Lakers. But when all is said and done, Walton won’t get any of the credit for Warriors’ victories while he fills in for Kerr… at least officially.
According to league rules, those wins still belong to Kerr. But Walton is not only okay with that; he seems to have a pretty good sense of humor about it. Via Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle:
“Steve has done so much for me since I’ve tried to get into this coaching world that I’m fine with the wins,” said Walton, who, as an interim head coach, has his record count toward Kerr’s wins and losses. “But if I’m out there doing my job to get him wins, and I get dinged with a technical, I think he should be responsible for at least 50 percent of the technical-foul” fine.
The streak “truly speaks to what Steve Kerr came in and did, because it’s just a reflection of the system and the atmosphere that he built when he got here,” Walton said. “All we’re doing is following his leadership. He’s obviously not out there on the basketball court, but it’s good enough that we follow his blueprint and can have this type of success.”
Certainly, there’s a lot to be said for both the style of play Kerr put into place with these Warriors and their overall mentality toward the game. He’s preached “fun” from day one, and it shows. The camaraderie this group has spills from the locker room out onto the court and is a well-spring for their supreme confidence and cohesion as a unit.
But Kerr isn’t having any of that. If he had his way, all of those wins would belong to Walton. Via Ethan Sherwood Strauss of ESPN.com:
“I think it’s ridiculous,” Kerr told ESPN.com when asked about getting all of Walton’s wins. “I’m sitting in the locker room and watching the games on TV, and I’m not even traveling to most of the road games. Luke’s doing all the work with the rest of the staff. Luke is 15-0 right now. I’m not. So it’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, to be honest with you. I don’t even understand it.”
Even if Walton won’t officially be recognized for his role in the Warriors’ historic start, it doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to see that he might be able to parlay this into another head coaching gig (interim tag not included) somewhere around the league sooner rather than later.
He might also get the consolation prize of coaching the Western Conference All-Star team if Kerr doesn’t return in time. Kerr himself wouldn’t be eligible to do so, given his absence.