OAKLAND — Steve Kerr will return to coaching Friday night, and after he made the announcement to the Warriors at a pregame film session, the joyous celebration and wisecracking began.
Stephen Curry raised his arms in the air. The Warriors cheered for minutes and when Kerr tried to talk, they kept on cheering, according to Draymond Green. Players kidded with Luke Walton about losing his job. The theme song to “Welcome Back, Kotter” played on the practice facility’s sound system.
“I was thinking I’d do it like MJ did and send a fax out that just says, ‘I’m back,’ but I don’t think … faxes, do they even exist at this point?” Kerr joked, referring to former teammate Michael Jordan’s two-word announcement of his return to basketball.
Kerr will be back on the bench for Friday’s game against the Indiana Pacers at Oracle Arena, and his return comes one game before a much-anticipated showdown between the Warriors and San Antonio Spurs — the teams with the two best record in the NBA.
Kerr said he made the decision after traveling with the team on its three-game trip to the Midwest.
“One thing I do know is that I’ve been coaching in practice every day the last few weeks, feeling better and better, and ready to go,” said Kerr, who hit a halfcourt shot at a shootaround in Cleveland and appeared on stage at a comedy club in front of his staff in Chicago.
“This past road trip getting through everything, feeling good, sleeping well, being engaged, and to do that when you’re traveling all over the country is a pretty good indication that things are better.”
Kerr declined to detail the symptoms he went through as a result of a spinal fluid leak following an offseason back surgery, citing that it was a private matter.
Kerr’s leave of absence lasted 16 weeks, as he missed most of training camp, the preseason and the first 43 games of the regular season.
He didn’t want to come back until he was confident that a major setback wouldn’t be in his future despite the rigors of the schedule.
“Maybe I miss a game,” Kerr said of it there comes a day he doesn’t feel well. “Who knows? I haven’t even considered that at this point because I’m feeling good, and I don’t anticipate it.”
Kerr thanked his coaching staff, co-owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, general manager Bob Myers, his players, his doctors and his wife for their support.
He joked a bit about Walton, who led the Warriors to the best record in the NBA and won Western Conference coach of the month honors in November while the team was undefeated.
“I thought maybe he’d be 40-3, but 39-4, I’ll have to settle for that,” Kerr joked. “Luke is just an absolute star. He’s humble and smart and loyal. He just stepped in and did an amazing job. The whole staff stepped in and did a brilliant job.
“He’s a head coach waiting to happen any time, and hopefully he’ll take his time and stick around here for a little while. But I know people will be coming after him this summer as they should. He’s got everything you would want to be a great head coach in this league. His humility and his loyalty, he’s excited for me.”
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