War­riors, Cava­liers have quite the con­flu­ence of coaches.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Mike Bres­na­han mike.bres­na­han@la­times.com Twit­ter: Mike_Bres­na­han

OAK­LAND — Lost among the LeBron vs. Steph story line, the “starved fran­chise” theme of Cleve­land vs. Golden State, and the melan­choly Kyrie Irv­ing in­jury is the un­usual cross-sec­tion of coaches in the NBA Fi­nals.

The War­riors could take a 2-0 se­ries lead Sun­day against LeBron James and, um, who­ever’s left on Cleve­land, soon be­com­ing champs for the first time in for­ever with sev­eral coach­ing mini­plots.

It’s been an un­be­liev­able ride for the War­riors’ Steve Kerr, but what about his pre­de­ces­sor re­quired to an­a­lyze unimag­in­ably suc­cess­ful War­riors games in front of mas­sive Fi­nals au­di­ences?

There’s also the guy across from Kerr, David Blatt, the some­what em­bat­tled Cava­liers coach whowas al­most hired by Kerr as a War­riors as­sis­tant a year ago.

On­the pe­riph­ery, a War­riors as­sis­tant coach is on the way out and another pos­si­bly on the way up while con­tin­u­ing a charmed NBA life.

It all starts, of course, with Kerr.

The rookie

Kerr was great when­ever he slapped on head phones at a court­side ta­ble and talked for the next three hours about the TNT game un­fold­ing in front of him.

Then Phil Jackson, his former coach in Chicago, called about coach­ing the New York Knicks.

So much for an­a­lyz­ing Mem­phis-Char­lotte games.

But then Golden State of­fi­cials called Kerr, ask­ing whether he’d like to coach their more tal­ented team. So­much for the Knicks. Kerr has been spec­tac­u­lar in his first sea­son as an NBA coach, tak­ing a teamthat fin­ished sixth in the Western Con­fer­ence last year to within three vic­to­ries of a ti­tle.

Play­ers love his abil­ity to know when to crack down and when to ease up, and there are plenty of laughs when Kerr some­times takes over the mu­sic playlist dur­ing game warmups, what he refers to as “White Guy Wed­nes­day.”

He doesn’t miss broadcasting, ac­knowl­edg­ing the ner­vous en­ergy he felt as a coach be­fore the War­riors elim­i­nated Hous­ton in the West semi­fi­nals.

“There’s a lot at stake,” he said. “That’s kind of why I got back into the com­pet­i­tive side of the game af­ter be­ing in TV the last four years. I wanted to feel this and wanted to be in the mix, be in the fire and feel all the emo­tions that go with it.”

The former coach

Kerr was hired af­ter Mark Jackson failed to get the War­riors past the sec­ond round of the play­offs in three years.

Now Jackson is part of the three-man ABC crew call­ing the Fi­nals.

Jackson, though, said it wasn’t awk­ward watch­ing the guys he coached ad­vance to­ward the fran­chise’s first ti­tle in 40 years.

“Great ques­tion, and the an­swer is no,” he said. “As a kid, I dreamed of play­ing in the NBA, I dreamed of coach­ing in the NBA and I dreamed of an­nounc­ing in the NBA, and I’ve ful­filled each and ev­ery one of those roles.”

The near-hire

Kerr is cur­rently try­ing to out­smart the man he al­most hired last year.

He met with Blatt near LAX and bonded in­stantly with a coach whose re­sume was al­most en­tirely based on in­ter­na­tional suc­cess. Kerr of­fered him a spot on the War­riors’ bench but then the Cava­liers called Blatt about their va­cancy at head coach.

With Kerr’s en­cour­age­ment, Blatt in­ter­viewed for it and be­came a some­what sur­pris­ing head­line when Cleve­land of­fered him the job. Blatt took it, of course.

“We both got ex­actly what we wanted,” Blatt said. “We wanted to be part of a suc­cess­ful team that com­petes for the cham­pi­onship of the NBA. And it’s hap­pened — only we’re on dif­fer­ent sides.”

It hasn’t been easy for Blatt, who re­port­edly lost some sup­port in­side the locker room dur­ing a mid-sea­son slump and is now try­ing to fig­ure out how to win Cleve­land’s first cham­pi­onship with­out in­jured All­Stars Irv­ing and Kevin Love.

The de­part­ing one

War­riors as­sis­tant coach Alvin Gen­try has al­ways been a lit­tle too early or too late in three runs as a head coach.

He was in charge of Detroit be­fore they ac­quired Chauncey Billups or the Wal­laces, and with the Clip­pers while they were still, you know, the Clip­pers. He coached Phoenix af­ter Steve Nash had won two NBA MVP awards but still guided the Suns to the West fi­nals.

Gen­try jumped last month at the chance to be­come head coach of the New Or­leans Pel­i­cans.

“It took me 27 [coach­ing] years to­get here. All the en­ergy that Ihave in life is go­ing to be try­ing to help the War­riors in ev­ery way I can to win a cham­pi­onship,” Gen­try said. “Then there will be time to worry about what’s go­ing to hap­pen in New Or­leans.”

The other rookie

Luke Wal­ton won two cham­pi­onships as a role player for the Lak­ers and earned $34 mil­lion in an 11year ca­reer, a solid haul for a sec­ond-round pick.

His string of good for­tune con­tin­ued in his first year as an NBA as­sis­tant.

Wal­ton is steadily learn­ing the nu­ances of coach­ing but there are times he misses his play­ing days, which ended in 2013.

“There’s a lot of nights where it’s Fe­bru­ary in Min­ne­sota and I’m like, ‘Thank God I’m not play­ing any­more,’ ” he said. “But there’s big games, play­off games, where you do all the prep work, you’ve got the guys ready and the game plan ready, you just have to sit there and hope things go well.”

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