Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr on leadership, trust and the keys to building a championship culture

Sustained success is all about culture and values, even in professional sports. So conveyed Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr during an enlightening Q&A session with Rakuten Rewards Chief Marketing Officer Dana Marineau on leadership, trust and team building at Rakuten International’s San Mateo headquarters.

Kerr talked about leadership, trust and team building during a visit to Rakuten’s San Mateo headquarters ahead of the tip-off of the 2023-24 NBA season.
Kerr talked about leadership, trust and team building during a visit to Rakuten’s San Mateo headquarters ahead of the tip-off of the 2023-24 NBA season.

In a league where the average tenure of a head coach is approximately two years, Kerr has served ten, taking home four NBA Championship rings in the process. And that’s in addition to the five championships Kerr won with the Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs during a storied 15-year playing career. So, what is the secret behind his remarkable success?

Kerr identifies the four values of competitiveness, mindfulness, compassion and joy in team culture – values developed during his time playing under legendary coaches Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich and Lute Olsen – as critical to the Warriors’ decade of success. As Kerr noted to a crowd of Rakuten International employees, every day as he walked into the arena as a player, he felt connected. Connected to his teammates, the coaching staff and to his and the organization’s goals.

When he was first appointed head coach of the Warriors, he set out to establish a similar culture of connectivity with his new team. Kerr credits a conversation with Pete Coulsen, then and current head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, with helping him understand that creating a winning, values-based culture, (and not just mastering the X’s and O’s of the game), is the single most important part of succeeding as a coach.

“[It’s all about] knowing who you are as a coach, as a leader, and then trying to share those values with the team, and help those values come out every single day.”

– Steve Kerr, Head Coach of the Golden State Warriors

“Those values have to be authentic, and they have to be real,” he said. And making sure that every member – from the players to the staff – understand and share these values implicitly is crucial to building that culture that enables everyone to feel joy and have fun every day in their jobs. This empowered one member of Kerr’s staff to speak up about changing the team’s in-game strategy.

Everyone should feel a part of the journey

Recounting a story from the Warrior’s first Championship run in 2015, Kerr noted, “We had a young video coordinator Nick U’Ren, who was probably 24 years old at the time, and during the finals he called me up. We were down 2-1, and he said, ‘What do you think about starting Andre Iguodala instead of Andrew Bogut? Just so we could kind of free up our offense.’ And the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. So, we did it. And the point was, it didn’t matter where the idea came from, but everybody feeling like they had a say and they were empowered to speak their minds, [that] was part of what we wanted to build. And it was a great moment for our staff, great moment for our culture. We won the next three games. And Nick, after that we called him the Golden Boy.”

“Everybody matters, but not always does everybody feel like they matter, so I think just making everybody aware that you’re all part of this is so crucial.”

– Steve Kerr

Kerr recognizes that in an environment that evolves as rapidly as that of the NBA, conventional thinking on what works can quickly become obsolete, so it pays to empower even the younger members of the staff.

“If we don’t listen to them, we’re going to get left behind,” he said. “You never stop evolving [and] you never stop growing. And it’s usually the young people who understands the change that’s happening, so you better listen to them.”

Rakuten partners with Black in Fashion Council and Stephen Curry to champion emerging black designers

Rakuten launched a partnership with the Black In Fashion Council to help grow and scale the business of up-and-coming black designers in the U.S. And they are getting an assist from Golden State Warriors superstar and Rakuten brand ambassador Stephen Curry, who will help shine a spotlight on select designers and their businesses.

Stephen Curry to boost visibility for up-and-coming Black designers in the US together with Rakuten.
Stephen Curry to boost visibility for up-and-coming Black designers in the U.S. together with Rakuten.

Starting with the sponsorship of the NYFW Discovery Showroom at the Spring/Summer 2024 season of New York Fashion Week, Rakuten will leverage its platform, the press and social media to drive awareness and traffic for black designers on Rakuten.com.

Rakuten employees show Warriors support as they gear up for the 2023-2024 NBA season

In other Rakuten x Warriors news, Rakuten, the official partner of the Golden State Warriors, hosted a special employee event at Rakuten International’s San Mateo headquarters to show their support for the Dubs.

Decked out in Golden State Warriors swag, employees were swept up by the contagious energy of the Warriors Dance Team, Santa Cruz Warriors mascot Mav’Riks and Warriors “Hype-Man” Franco Finn. The event also featured special giveaways, including a jersey signed by Stephen Curry and preseason Warriors game tickets.

For more on Rakuten’s partnership with the Golden State Warriors, visit here.

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