Steve Kerr’s Unlikely Journey

January 12th, 2018 | by Sam Smith

MARGOT KERR REFLECTS ON HER HUSBAND AND FORMER BULLS GUARD’S WIDE-RANGING CAREER

Jordan returns to the NBA. He does take time out to beat up Kerr one day in practice, though two years later at the end of Game 6 in the 1997 Finals, it was Jordan looking for Kerr in another sense. Jackson had drawn up a (hopeful) game winning play for Jordan, who anticipated a Utah double team with John Stockton coming off Kerr. So Jordan in the frenzied huddle tells Kerr to be ready, that he was going to pass him the ball, and when Michael says that you better be ready. A career of shots, though, more importantly, a lifetime of challenging obstacles and doubts, and Steve was ready.

His 17-footer was the game winner before the Bulls knocked away the subsequent inbounds pass from the Jazz. The following season made it three championships with the Bulls, though no starts. Then it was a fourth consecutive championship as Kerr signed with the San Antonio Spurs for the 1998-999 season with the biggest contract of his playing career, five years and $11 million, and a reputation as if not the most prolific, the most accurate three-point shooter in NBA history. Kerr had a detour to the Portland Trailblazers in 2001-02 and then back for a final season with the Spurs as he proved vital again with a three-point shooting display to bail out the Spurs in the clinching Game 6 of the 2003 Western Conference finals.

The Spurs went on to title No. 2 while Kerr made it ring No. 5.

Then after a conference finals appearance as an executive with the Suns and analyst work on games for TNT, Kerr was about to repay a debt to Jackson for that playing chance in 1993 and coach the Knicks for Jackson as team president. Jackson had long told associates if he ever were to run a team, Kerr would be his coaching hire.

“That was one reason he wanted to come to the Bulls,” recalled Margot of that fateful turning point in 1993 for the Kerrs. “He knew the triangle, he knew the offense they were running. He’s played for Lenny Wilkins, Matty Guokas; he played with Scott Skiles, Cotton Fitzsimmons in Phoenix. He knew about their offense and watching the Bulls and seeing John Paxson (who was injured and close to retiring), he felt that was a great place for him to be as a shooter.”

Of course, Steve also thought Orlando was and took a $20,000 pay cut in 1992-93 to accommodate a trade to the Magic because he figured to be a perimeter fit with Shaquille O’Neal. It didn’t happen.

“He felt on paper they had the big guys in Orlando and they wanted shooters all around, but he barely played,” said Margot. “We never really thought he really was going to play in the NBA. Phoenix gave him a shot probably because they had a lot of issues with the drug stuff and they probably thought he was a U. of A. guy, local, clean cut and it will be good for business (to sell tickets in Tucson, also), basically such a great franchise and management, and it was tarnished a little. And then he really didn’t play, but what a wonderful organization with the Suns.

“So Cotton trades him to Cleveland where Gary (Fitzsimmons, Cotton’s son) was and Lenny was great, but he knew he really wasn’t going to play much,” said Margot. “But with Lenny and Wayne Embry, it was such a professional organization, high class, great ownership; you learn seeing that. Then the Orlando thing and I don’t think he had any other offers. I’m pretty sure he was a free agent with really nowhere to go and probably basically begged his way onto the Bulls.

“We had a little nest egg and bought a little house in Tucson. We were happy with that,” says Margot. “I don’t think we thought there was anything else. Then last year the championship, and this year, breaking the (Bulls’ wins record) record; can’t believe that, also. It’s all so weird.”

And wonderful, and if no one quite deserves all that good fortune, no one also begrudges it to a couple and a family who just enjoy the ride like appreciative tourists. And who never forget that time in Chicago, where it all changed.

*This article is a condensed/revised version. For the original story, visit: on.nba.com/2rjWl72

Presented by