Kerr reveals 'biggest challenge' after Warriors' 2015 title originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
Steve Kerr can relate to what one of his favorite teams is going through.
Liverpool, the Premier League club the Warriors coach supports, began its title defense on Saturday with a 4-3 win over Leeds United. If the Reds are anything like Kerr's Warriors in 2015-16, '17-18 and '18-19, they'll have a difficult road to repeating as champions.
"It's a question every team faces, every coach faces after winning a championship," Kerr told Roger Bennett in an interview on "Men In Blazers" earlier this week. "How do you find the energy to start that journey again? Because you have to go back down to the bottom of the mountain and start climbing again, and it's different.
"In many ways, the first climb is the most part of the journey, before you reach the top. It's actually more fun than anything else. And so, once you've been to the top, the journey loses a little bit of its innocence, a little bit of its joy and the other teams, now, have all had plenty of chance to build specifically to beat you. ... [And] they're fresher. They're on the climb themselves."
The Warriors' own experience exemplified that challenge. Golden State only repeated as champions once during their dynastic reign last decade, comng tantalizingly close twice more. Kerr's Warriors finished a win shy of repeating in 2016 after coughing up a three-games-to-one NBA Finals lead, and two wins short in last year's Finals with Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson out injured by the end of the series.
The coach called the Warriors' first championship last decade the happiest moment of his career, telling Bennett the moment was "unadulterated joy." That feeling, in Kerr's experience, is a difficult one to replicate.
"I think that was my biggest challenge as coach of the Warriors after we won our first one was just trying to pace the team through that next season," Kerr continued, "not grind them too hard, and get them to the point where we could compete and still enjoy the process."
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That next season, the Warriors won an NBA-record 73 regular-season games, eclipsing the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls' seemingly unbreakable mark. Golden State didn't repeat, though, and the Warriors' approach was markedly different during their second repeat attempt in 2017-18 and their lone three-peat bid the following season.
In both of those seasons, the Warriors won fewer than 60 games while Kerr implored his team to enjoy the moment because their success wouldn't last forever. Kerr's own experience during the Bulls' "Last Dance" in 1998 shaped his perspective, but so did Golden State's failed title run in 2016.
He surely hopes his beloved Liverpool can heed the same lessons.