Friday, May 7, 2021

Review: Steve Kerr (2021)

By Scott Howard-Cooper

It is the age-old question in the world of books. What's more valuable: biography or autobiography? 

That is to say, what's the best way of learning about a person? Does the reader gain an advantage by hearing from the subject directly, or is it better to have the perspective of many offer viewpoints on that same subject?

The usual answer is "it depends." Both can be valuable, particularly if the person in question is interesting enough. 

There's no doubt that Steve Kerr is more than interesting enough. The coach of the NBA's Golden State Warriors is one of the most fascinating, thoughtful people anywhere - let alone in sports. His life has gone down avenues that are part dream, part nightmare. What's more, he has shown on occasion an ability to be a good writer. Therefore, a Kerr autobiography ought to be a major event if and when it comes. 

He's not there yet, though. Kerr also turned down the chance to be interviewed at length for "Steve Kerr" by Scott Howard-Cooper, and didn't exactly go out of his way to help the author gain access to friends and associates. So this is definitely a book that features an outside-in look at Kerr, rather than an inside-out approach from the man itself. 

And, after reading it, the biography works quite well - thanks to some good work by the author and a subject that inspires curiosity and interest.

Kerr already had lived quite a life even before he finished college. His father was from the academic community specializing in the Middle East, and the family spent a great deal of time in Beirut, Lebanon - before it had turned into the violent stew of people that we associated with it. Steve attended schools in Cairo, Beirut and Southern California while growing up. Malcolm Kerr eventually was named president of the American University of Beirut.

However, Malcolm was assassinated by a militia group in Beirut in 1984, throwing the entire family into a very difficult situation. To their credit, they have handled matters probably as well as they can be handles, even if there's no playbook for such actions. Steve was at the University of Arizona at the time, an unlikely pick to even receive a basketball scholarship - let alone see any significant playing time. Kerr also suffered a very significant knee injury that cost him all of the 1986-87 season. But he bounced back to help lead the Wildcats to the Final Four in 1987. 

Kerr bounced around a bit at the start of his NBA career, but he clearly got every ounce of his athletic ability mostly due to smarts and work ethic. The guard eventually landed with the Chicago Bulls in 1993, just as Michael Jordan left to play baseball. Kerr hung on to a roster spot long enough to play with Jordan, and became a key role player on one of the greatest teams in NBA history. Kerr will always be associated with a long-range shot to win the clinching Game Six against Utah in 1998. Steve eventually earned three championship rings there. Then when the Bulls broke up, Kerr went to San Antonio for two more titles. 

Add it up, and Kerr played 16 years in the NBA - about 15 more than even he might have expected. His understanding of the game, made him a natural for management, and eventually Kerr landed a head coaching job with Golden State. Yes, three more titles came out of that relationship ... and he isn't done yet.

It's difficult to guess how thoroughly an e-book is written beforehand, but it didn't take long to figure out that Howard-Cooper wasn't interesting in gathering enough material for a quick, superficial book. There are tons of footnotes and book references in the back, and he clearly talked to as many people as he could. Kerr, his family, friends, teammates and associates also have offered plenty of opinions and statements on Kerr, and that helps too. There's plenty to chew on here. 

The author obviously has a great deal of respect for Kerr, which might be why he wrote it in the first place. Come to think of it, it's apparently difficult to find anyone who doesn't feel that way.  

For those who are curious to find out why this basketball coach is such an interesting character "Steve Kerr" will answer those questions nicely. Come to think of it, it will make you await Kerr's own version of the story with even a greater sense of anticipation.

Four stars

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