OAKLAND — The plan seemed so perfect. After spending all of last week in China, Warriors coach Steve Kerr thought he had found the correct remedy for shaking off jet lag.
After having a day off on Monday, Kerr planned to hold a practice on Tuesday where his players would scrimmage each other in a full-court game. As they would sweat out their competitive juices, they would also sweat out their jet lag.
As Kerr finalized practice plans in his office, though, Warriors assistant Ron Adams voiced some concerns.
“You were a player, so you understand this better than I do…,” Adams began, in deference to Kerr’s former NBA playing career. “We should not scrimmage. The guys are walking around like zombies.”
He then shared why he did not think it would be a good idea for the Warriors to begin their first practice since returning to China playing in a full-court five-on-five scrimmage.
“My fear that day was simply that our heads weren’t right,” Adams recalled after practice on Thursday. “My head wasn’t right. Everyone else’s heads were spinning, too. When you scrimmage and that’s the case, I always worry about injury.”
Kerr agreed. So he changed his plans. As the Warriors labored through even a light practice, Kerr eventually canceled it and encouraged his players to hydrate themselves and relax.
“That’s the genius of Steve,” Adams said. “He’s eclectic. He listens. And he thinks things through well.”
And the episode provides a tiny window on why the Warriors have revered Adams so much. The NBA has, too. In an NBA.com poll, a 21.1 percent plurality of the league’s general managers voted Adams as the NBA’s best assistant coach.
“He’s a great teacher,” Kerr said. “But more than anything, he’s a wonderful person who all of us enjoy being around.”
Adams has plenty of knowledge to share after having numerous assistant-coaching stops in San Antonio (1992-94), Philadelphia (1994-96), Milwaukee (1998-2003), Chicago (2003-08), Oklahoma City (2008-10), Chicago again (2010-13) and Boston (2013-14). Entering his fourth season as the Warriors’ assistant coach, Adams has tried to master “a lot of subtle things” that go beyond X’s and O’s.
“Ron has given us some really good chemistry,” Kerr said. “He’s the older guy and the wise sage. He’s funny and laughs at himself. We like to laugh at Ron. He laughs along with us. It’s a great quality.”
Case in point, Adams made little about his latest award. He joked that “it’s rigged” before admitting, “to be recognized by people in your field is special for me.” But Adam is not just here for the laughs. He is here to teach.
So after growing up in a farm in Central California where the people valued honesty and trust, Adams has tried to bring a human touch to a profession obsessed on results and hidden agendas.
“Having a rapport with any athlete when you’re around good people, it’s not difficult to have a rapport,” Adams said. “But you want a rapport so that through thick and thin, you can guide someone and coach someone and it’s not taken as an affront.”
Adams contended he “was much more obnoxious” earlier in his career that also included head-coaching stints at Fresno State (1986-90) and his alma mater, Fresno Pacific (1972-75). Since then, Adams has strongly believed for the need to adapt coaching strategy both with the game and players.
“When I started coaching, I’d tell you to do something because you’re going to do it and I’m the coach and you’re the player,” Adams said. “Then there was a period of questioning. We were questioning everything in our culture. People wanted a reason: ‘Well, why are we doing this, as opposed to doing that” Instead of being alarmed by that, you had to take it and work it so that it is an educational opportunity and [explain], ‘This is why we’re doing this.’”
Adams provided that same approach when he argued to Kerr about holding off on any scrimmaging on Tuesday. After
Adams’ explanation, Kerr said six words that revealed both his receptiveness for feedback and the respect Adams has garnered for his honesty.
Said Kerr: “That’s probably a good idea, Ron.”
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