NBA ’Cats: Full-Court Connections

‘You have a connection, having been through the same experience, and that connection is really important.’

Tim Vanderpool, Getty Images photo

By the time he helped propel UA men’s basketball to the Final Four in 1988, Steve Kerr ’87 had already become a favorite with Wildcat fans. More than 20 years later, the former NBA player and UA Sports Hall of Fame inductee keeps on returning the favor, bringing fellow Wildcats along as he ascends into the sports stratosphere.

In May, Kerr was named head coach for Oakland’s Golden State Warriors — and it’s no surprise that his staff now includes several Wildcats.

“There are a lot of events, reunions, and games, where you run into people you played with,” says Kerr. Those encounters only add to “the strong connection through Coach [Lute] Olson. That developed relationships — you have a connection, having been through the same experience, and that connection is really important.”  

How important? Well, just look at Kerr’s lineup of Wildcats now holding critical posts with the Warriors. There’s Bruce Fraser ’88, who played point guard alongside Kerr at the UA in the late 1980s; he’s now Golden State’s player-development coach.

Or Luke Walton ’02, Kerr’s assistant coach and fellow UA Sports Hall of Fame inductee, who comes fresh from a decade playing in the NBA. And the Warrior’s advance scout, Kelly Peters, has Wildcat connections.

This lineup is a natural, says Fraser, who also worked at the Phoenix Suns when Kerr was the general manager.  “The unique thing about Arizona is that all the former players really stick together, even if they weren’t in your class,” Fraser says. “Coach Olson did a great job of keeping us together when he was there, and now Coach Sean Miller has taken it further — he has continued to keep it a family.”

Having members of that family onboard at Golden State is a boon for Kerr, who signed on with the Warriors in May in what will be his first coaching gig. That follows 15 years with the NBA, where he played 910 games and won five championships. As general manager, he also spurred the Suns’ advance to the 2010 Western Conference finals. In between, he spent several years as a broadcaster for TNT.   

Today, he has another opportunity to call on Wildcats as he takes the Warriors to the top. “With Coach Olson and the program that he built — it was so strong and lasted for such a long time that there was automatically a connection between the players of different eras,” says Kerr.  

That connection keeps paying dividends — on the court and off.