The coach of the three-time Splash Brothers-led Golden State Warriors, Steve Kerr has proven to be a perfect fit for the team: everything he touches seemingly turns to gold.
After taking over for a squad that was knocked out of the playoffs in Round One the previous year, Kerr led the 2014-2015 Warriors to the title in his first season, with plenty of help from two of the greatest shooters in NBA history, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, of course.
During his playing days, Kerr had a field day from three-point range in his own right, the beneficiary of Michel Jordan and Scottie Pippen’s timely assists.
He also had his moments in the Spurs’ 1999 and 2003 title runs, chipping in as part of one of the most efficient offensive systems of all-time.
In other words, he’s lived a charmed basketball life from the day he stepped foot on campus at the University of Arizona to play for Hall-of-Fame Coach Lute Olson.
But despite his calm demeanor and unflappable disposition in the face of pressure (the “crossed legs on the sideline” look says it all), Kerr hasn’t always had it so easy in life or in basketball, in large part due to the tragic passing of his father Malcolm.
As noted in the video above, Kerr says the tragic loss made him realize how fragile life is, and how important it is to enjoy the good times fully and to hold onto them as long as humanly possible.
Kerr’s father was described by USA Today as a devoted academic working at his “dream job” at the time, a peace advocate who worked to bridge the divide between Christians, Muslims and Jews in what has long been a divided country.
Even President Ronald Reagan acknowledged the death of the elder Kerr, releasing the following statement according to the newspaper:
“Dr. Kerr’s untimely and tragic death at the hands of these despicable assassins must strengthen our resolve not to give in to the acts of terrorists. Terrorism must not be allowed to take control of the lives, actions, or future of ourselves and our friends.”
His tragic death became national news, and Kerr and his Arizona teammates at the time were swept up in the whirlwind of emotions that came along with it.
“There was a commotion, so much commotion, but I don’t remember much beyond that other than how shocked we were, how unreal it all felt,” said Pete Williams, Arizona’s leading scorer. “We didn’t think about terrorism then. Ever.”
Kerr had witnessed the Civil War in Lebanon, but still remarked that he never thought such a tragedy could happen to his family. He chose not to attend his father’s funeral in Beirut, instead playing in a big game against Arizona State.
The freshman made 5-of-7 shots as the Wildcats won, 71-49.
Four years later, the Sun Devils’ fans and their derogatory comments about his father fueled him yet again, as he made six three-pointers en route to another win as part of a Cinderella Final Four season.
Kerr has not spoken much publicly about his father’s death, he told USA Today, but he did speak on his impact on his life following the 2011 September 11 attacks, reflecting on the tragic loss his family suffered at the hands of terrorism, as well as Malcolm Kerr’s distinct legacy.
“I feel his full impact on my whole life,” he said. “It’s there every day.”
For more information on the story of Malcolm Kerr’s tragic death and how it impacted Steve Kerr legendary (perhaps Hall-of-Fame, counting his coaching prowess?) career, check out the full USA Today article here.