“If Coach Olson walked in and saw some of this, he’d be shaking his head,” Fraser said. “He’d think we’re so loose.”
The Warriors are still mindful of the essentials, though, especially at training camp, where they dribble around traffic cones and throw passes at pitch-back nets configured with targets. If they channel the Harlem Globetrotters, their flamboyance is rooted in bedrock principles.
“And I think you could tie a lot of that back to Coach Olson and Arizona,” Fraser said.
Kerr played for several legendary N.B.A. coaches — Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich, Lenny Wilkens, Cotton Fitzsimmons — and he took pieces from each as he developed his own style. Jerry Marvin, his former coach at Palisades High School in Los Angeles, made a big impression, too. But these were coaches with unique approaches.
“I think the common thread is their force of personality,” Kerr said. “They all saw the game a little differently and ran different stuff, basing a lot of it on their personnel. But it’s not what made them great coaches. It was having great talent, and then developing a great culture and system so that their talent could flourish.”
Olson, for example, adapted to the strengths of his roster. He became more guard-oriented over the years, especially after he recruited high-profile players like Damon Stoudamire, Khalid Reeves and Gilbert Arenas. (Kerr noted how he had been one of the “slow guys in the backcourt” when Olson was just starting out at Arizona.)
But Olson was not necessarily trying to outwit anyone by being especially innovative. Basketball, Kerr said, is not like football, where a mastermind like Bill Belichick can lean on his tactical genius to mold the New England Patriots into the most dominant N.F.L. team of his era.