Does Steve Kerr belong in the Hall of Fame? His third coaching title might have sealed it

Does Steve Kerr belong in the Hall of Fame? His third coaching title might have sealed it

And so it has come to this, after another champagne shower last Friday followed a few days later by another sun-washed parade, and after the strange events that put him in the job in the first place followed by something that almost yanked the cherished role away …

Steve Kerr may have just made the Hall of Fame.

Crazy but true. It’s pushing the limits of believability even for a professional life built on improbable: The 50th pick of the 1988 NBA Draft to five titles as a player, a coaching career that was lined up to begin with Phil Jackson as head of the SuperSonics’ basketball operations if the Kings had moved to Seattle, then was supposed to begin with Jackson with the Knicks in New York, then jerked to Oakland when owner Joe Lacob stepped out of the meeting of Warriors brass interviewing Stan Van Gundy to take a call from Kerr signaling interest in the Dubs. But yes, true.

Kerr just earned his third championship ring as the Warriors coach. Four of the five others to breath that thin air — Jackson, Red Auerbach, John Kundla and Pat Riley — are enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The fifth would have been long ago, except Gregg Popovich essentially sent word that anyone who nominated him would be treated like a TV sideline reporter attempting an interview between quarters.

Jackson: 11 championships in 20 years.

Auerbach: nine in 20.

Kundla: five in 11.

Popovich: five in 22.

Riley: five in 24.

  Sure Thing

Then Kerr.

This year’s sweep against the Cavaliers provided a third title and the startling new perspective that Kerr could retire tomorrow and still have a credible case for enshrinement. After four seasons. While 75th on the career win list. Before his first contract has expired.

Which is the whole point, that Kerr is staring right at the ultimate lifetime achievement award without having come close to the lifetime part. The closest comp among NBA coaches is Bill Sharman getting elected with seven NBA seasons and one championship on the books, which could mean Kerr became a lock late last Friday in Cleveland or could mean his chances merely improved among the unpredictable Hall mystery voters hidden by anonymity.

It’s probably down to patience, the calendar the only thing between Kerr and a ticket to Springfield, Massachusetts. There is his personal clock, of course — bulking up the résumé to, say, 10 seasons could eliminate any debate even if he doesn’t stack additional titles along the way. The Hall eligibility rule, though, is the greater timing issue.

To go on the ballot, a coach must either be retired four seasons or have at least 25 years as a full-time assistant or head coach in high school, college or the pros. Kerr has no retirement plans and, without time on the sidelines before joining the Warriors, chances are microscopic he reaches that silver anniversary, so we could be here a while.

The part about no retirement plans is especially relevant given that Kerr is still struggling with the illness that forced him to miss 43 regular-season games in 2015-16 and 11 playoff games the next season before working the entire 2017-18 campaign. The third championship run was admittedly a physical struggle at times, though, and he privately considered retirement at least once before as pain relentlessly pounded away at his body, the intersection moment when the role he cherished was almost yanked away. Being forced to step aside in the near future is not in the plans, but it wouldn’t be the most shocking of announcements either — and it would start the four-year clock to be nominated for Springfield.

  John Fetterman

“I envision doing this for a long time,” he told The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami on “The TK Show” podcast in March. “But I want to feel better. I still want to feel better. And I still have some strides to make. But it’s frustrating going through this long term. So I’m dealing and constantly searching and trying to get better. …”


“I’ve learned how to manage my symptoms. I’ve learned kind of how to get through the pain. So I’m doing better with it in terms of managing it. Like I said, love coaching, love what I’m doing, and that’s carrying me through a lot of this.”

It’s still an issue, in other words, adding to the debate of whether he has already accomplished enough to deserve induction. It’s part of the significance of reaching this unique place in history last Friday and partying in the streets Tuesday. It’s the just-in-case Springfield safety net as illness shadows him for three seasons, that Steve Kerr, four seasons in, may have just made the Hall of Fame.

(Top photo: Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)