Arizona Basketball

Recalling days when Steve Kerr played for NBA title before coaching for one



Steve Kerr beats Utah in Game 6 of the 1997 NBA Finals with a memorable shot coming off a pass from Michael Jordan (YouTube video capture)

Steve Kerr beats Utah in Game 6 of the 1997 NBA Finals with a memorable shot coming off a pass from Michael Jordan (YouTube video capture)

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Steve Kerr

Steve Kerr

With all the Steve Kerr stuff out there on the wake of the NBA Finals, I remembered stories I wrote for the Tucson Citizen on the Arizona Wildcats star while he was with the Chicago Bulls.

I was lucky enough to spend a few weeks covering the Bulls in 1997 when Kerr and other Arizona Wildcats standouts Jud Buechler and the late Brian Williams played there.

One of the stories was about Kerr’s charm with the national media much like he had with those who covered the Arizona Wildcats:

After dressing and fixing his mussed hair, Kerr responds to the questions. Every one is answered. Reporters who have covered the Bulls all season say Kerr has been the most consistent in post-game responses.

Why would the playoffs be any different?

”Steve is a godsend to the media,” one Chicago-area reporter says.

Affable. Likable. Clever. Responsive. Responsible. Honest. Typical Steve Kerr.

What’s not to like?

He talks because he says it’s part of his job. Gracious in victory, even better in defeat.

”I don’t feel that it’s a burden,” said Kerr, nine years removed from his Arizona days. ”There are times when you don’t want to deal with it. And you don’t have to deal with it if you don’t want to. But for the most part, I want to.”


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Steve Rivera and Anthony Gimino released a book late last year about the pertinent stories behind what has made Arizona basketball what it is today. It is a must-read for any college basketball fan. Please contact Rivera by e-mail to inquire about buying a copy.


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Typical Steve Kerr. All-around good guy. Boyish looks, adult game. But as good as he is as a player, he’s even more impressive as a person.

Kerr is a gracious person overall:

Kerr obliges when he can. He’s at the hospital to visit ailing children so often one would think he’s a doctor. One visit grabbed the attention of Chicago sportswriters so much that it became a column, and later a short feature on the Chicago-based Oprah Winfrey show.

Turns out little Eric Feinberg, who has multiple sclerosis and is in a wheelchair, was given a trading card of Kerr, but then lost it. Kerr heard about it and not only replaced the card but also invited the Feinberg family to a Bulls game.


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Typical Steve Kerr.

And how about the time recently when Kerr bought 85 Bulls tickets so a group of underprivileged kids could see their heroes at work?

”Those are things he doesn’t like to make public,” Margot Kerr, his wife, told me. ”He tries to low-key it. He feels it’s part of the job. He just feels he’s been put in a situation where he has the ability to touch the lives of a lot of people.”

Of course, not every request – or wish – gets granted. If so, he’d never have a chance to spend time with his family.

”I’ll usually go through my letters and see which ones I think are deserving and need my attention,” Kerr said. ”What I like to do is bring the kids in the locker room.”

Buechler offered this memorable quote of Kerr:

”You couldn’t find a better person with better qualities than Steve Kerr,” Buechler said. ”If I had a son, I either want him to be like Steve Kerr or (former UA player) Matt Muehlebach.”

The topic of coaching came up with Kerr and he mentioned the possibility with his alma mater:

It has often been speculated that Steve Kerr would become a basketball coach at the University of Arizona, perhaps someday even replacing Lute Olson when the white-haired one decides to retire.

Coaching is still a thought for the future, Kerr said.

”Obviously, I’d love to coach there,” Kerr said. ”I’d love to live in Tucson. Maybe I’d be able to become an assistant coach there, and that will give me a chance to see if I really want to do that.”

Timing would be everything, of course. But it seems to be a perfect fit. UA fans love Kerr; he loves UA.

Another avenue he might try is sports broadcasting, using his sharp wit, game knowledge and name to get in the business.

”They’re both ideas,” he said. ”I may give broadcasting a try to get away from the pressure (of basketball) for a couple of years.”

One thing is certain, at age 31 (nearly 32) he’s always thinking of his post-basketball career. He’s always had enough foresight, instinct and savvy to think of the future.

”It’s something I’ve always had to do. I’ve never been talented enough to just go out and play,” he said. ”I had to pick my spots and situations. I’ve had to find my niche.”

It’s one that might have him back on the bench at McKale Center in a few years.

Kerr is in his first season with Golden State and he’s doing just fine for now.

Steve Rivera is a longtime Tucson sports journalist was the Arizona basketball beat reporter for the Tucson Citizen for almost 20 years. He presently is a writer for He also is a guest analyst on KCUB (1290-AM) and editor-in-chief of Tucson-based Tail Winds magazine.

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