Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr will take an indefinite leave of absence as he continues to recover from offseason back surgeries, the team announced Thursday. “After the first two days of training camp, I realized I need to take a step back and focus on my rehabilitation in order to be ready for the grind of another NBA season,” Kerr said in a statement. “As I noted last week, my summer was difficult and no fun due to the multiple back surgeries. At this point, I simply want to get healthy and back to my normal daily routine on and off the court.”
No timetable has been given for his return. Kerr, who has been with the team during training camp, will cede his duties to assistant Luke Walton. Joining Kerr’s staff before last season, the 35-year-old Walton will be getting his first crack at being an NBA head coach.
“We’ll keep this ship moving in the right direction until our captain [Steve Kerr] can return,” stated Walton, per Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle.
“The first two days of camp, he was flat energy-wise,” center Andrew Bogut said, according to Diamond Leung of the San Jose Mercury News. “He didn’t really have a chance to stay on his feet long. He was sitting down every 10 minutes, so we knew he wasn’t right.”
Defensive assistant Ron Adams stands to gain more responsibility with Kerr out. Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports also noted this may lead to a more expanded role for Steve Nash, who joined the organization as a consultant this summer.
Kerr, 50, led the Warriors to the NBA championship during his first season on the bench. Golden State went 67-15 during the regular season before defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games for its first title in 40 years. He underwent surgery on a ruptured disc in July and needed a second procedure last month due to complications.
“Well, to be honest, the last couple months have stunk for me,” Kerr said last week, per ESPN.com’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss. “I’m not kidding. I’ve had a rough go physically this summer. Two back surgeries, and it has not been fun. It wasn’t the summer I was envisioning after winning the title, thinking, ‘This is the greatest thing ever.'”
The Warriors don’t open the regular season until Oct. 27 against the New Orleans Pelicans, so it’s possible Kerr will return without missing a game that counts. General manager Bob Myers said the team does not “anticipate the recovery process will be long term,” though his status for opening night is unclear, per Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group.
As it stands, this is likely a minor setback for Kerr that won’t have any major bearing on the Warriors’ championship defense. If Kerr or the organization had any real doubts about the acumen of Walton or Adams, Kerr likely would have stuck around in a limited capacity.
Walton will now get his feet wet as a head coach running camp, and the veteran-laden roster in Golden State shouldn’t have any trouble keeping itself in check.