Back problems as well as the resulting headaches and nausea from a 2015 spinal surgery gone wrong have cost Kerr parts of Golden State’s last two seasons, but the fourth-year coach is optimistic about both his health for the 2017-18 campaign and his ability to steer the potential dynasty into the future.
“I fully expect to coach all year,” Kerr told the San Francisco Chronicle. “That’s my expectation. And for many years to come.”
Kerr lamented undergoing back surgery in July 2015, which resulted in a spinal fluid leak that has caused chronic headaches and recurring nausea. The ailments forced him to miss the first 43 games of Golden State’s record-breaking 73-win regular season in 2015-16 and a string of 11 playoff games — from Game 3 of the first round through Game 1 of the Finals — during the Warriors’ title run this year.
During his most recent absence, Kerr underwent a second procedure in hopes of correcting the issue at Duke University Medical Center this past May. All the while, he was in touch with interim coach Mike Brown about game plans for the Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz, San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland Cavaliers. By mid-May, he was healthy enough to return to practice, and on June 4 he manned the bench for Game 2 of the Finals, coaching the Warriors for the final four games of their 16-1 playoff run.
Even before he returned to the sidelines, Kerr always remained confident he could coach again — “Hell yeah,” he would, was how he described his future in late May — but even then he conceded to former Bay Area News Group columnist Tim Kawakami, “We have to figure everything out this summer.”
Kerr’s recent interview with Chronicle columnist Scott Ostler was even more welcome news, as the seven-time NBA champion and 2016 Coach of the Year revealed his health has “definitely gotten better,” even if “I still feel like there’s improvement to make.” The unfortunate reality, though, is that Kerr believed the same was true last season, when he told the Chronicle at the start of training camp in 2016, “I feel a lot better than I did a year ago. I’ll be out there coaching and I’ll be ready to go.”
“You kind of get used to flying around and staying in hotels and all that,” Kerr told Ostler. “But the two-month grind of the playoffs, where you’re having to get up for every game, and then relive that game for a couple days, and get picked apart, and the stress that goes with that. Do that over and over and over again, it wears you out.”
Here’s hoping Kerr can coach pain-free someday soon. In the meantime, he sounds fully prepared for the challenge of adding to a legacy that includes the NBA’s all-time best winning percentage in both the regular season and the playoffs, headaches or not. “I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished, and I love being part of something special,” he added to Ostler in the recent one-on-one-interview from San Diego. “In a perfect world, I will get some relief from the pain I’ve felt, so I can enjoy it more.”
The Warriors open the 2017-18 season on Oct. 17 against the Houston Rockets at Oracle Arena, where they will receive their second championship ring in three years. Barring any unforeseen setbacks, Kerr will be on hand to add a seventh to his collection. Hopefully that provides some temporary comfort.
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