LOS ANGELES – Steve Kerr is rare among his NBA coaching peers in that he has been both a coach and a general manager in the league. He’s coached the Golden State Warriors since 2014 but previously he was general manager of the Suns from 2007-10. Before the Wolves defeated the Warriors in Saturday’s preseason game, Kerr said there would be no way he could do both jobs at the same time.
“It wouldn’t work for me,” Kerr said. “It depends on the circumstances, the situations. It depends on relationships within the organization. Everybody is going to be structured a little differently, but having sat in both chairs, I would not feel comfortable doing both jobs.”
Kerr was talking in general about his experience in both roles and not directly about Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau, who also doubles as the team’s president of basketball operations — a front office title higher than the role of general manager that not a lot of coaches get, especially while they’re coaching.
Kerr said both jobs have their unique challenges and that it would difficult for him to navigate them simultaneously, something Thibodeau is having to do coaching the Wolves while trying to execute a deal for Jimmy Butler, who requested the Wolves trade him nearly two weeks ago.
“One of the reasons I wanted to coach is because frankly it’s easier than being a GM and facing some of those choices,” Kerr said. “I’m lucky. I’ve got a great GM. Great friend in Bob [Myers] and when we’ve been faced with difficult decisions, the collaboration and the process we’ve had has been sound. … We’re lucky to be where we are, and it’s been smooth. We’re all going to face our moments. It’s the NBA, and it’s tough out there.”
It would be tough for any team in the NBA to have it tougher than the Wolves right now, as they face the prospect of losing Butler. Thibodeau is trying to navigate those waters both from a front-office and locker room perspective.
“I understood all the challenges when I took the job. That hasn’t changed,” Thibodeau said.
“When you take the job, you have to understand what you’re looking at, what your responsibilities are. The first part is acquiring the talent, and we had to change our direction. I understood that. The record is what the record is.
“To change it, you do all you can to bring the right players in, and once you have those players, then your job is to lay out the plan, coach those guys, the guys that you do have as hard and as well as you can.”
That’s where Thibodeau is now, while General Manager Scott Layden handles trade negotiations involving Butler. The official reason the Wolves gave for Butler’s absence from the team since the start of training camp is that Butler needed to continue rehabilitating his surgically repaired right wrist.
Thibodeau said at the team’s media day last Monday he expected Butler to rejoin the team in a week if the Wolves hadn’t struck a deal. On Monday that week will run out as the Wolves practice in Los Angeles.
Butler might not be there, but Thibodeau will be wearing both of his job hats as he tries to steer through the most complicated time of his tenure — both as coach and executive.
“The thing is, you’re not doing it by yourself. With any job, you have a number of people that work together and you gather information and you study and then you make the best decisions for the team,” Thibodeau said.
“We understand that my job is to do what’s best for the Timberwolves. I never allow myself to get distracted from that.”