Ep. 99 - Steve Kerr

Update: 2016-11-23


Steve Kerr, head coach of the Golden State Warriors, sits down with David to discuss his upbringing in the Middle East, his father’s assassination in Beirut, his reaction to President-elect Trump’s victory, his future in coaching, and much more.

Following script is auto-generated by Speech to Text Technology:

the board for the acts files comes from rockin' mortgage my Quicken loans lift the burden of getting a home loan with rockin' mortgage and get a secure transparent home loan approval in minutes skip the bank of the waiting then go completely online at Quicken loans dot com slash X Files This podcast is brought you by sixty DB listen to conversations that go beyond the headlines business sports politics today's news plus all of your favorite podcasts download the free sixty DB at Today the the the and now from the University of Chicago Institute of Politics and CNN The X Files with your host David Axelrod the the the to all the listeners of The X Files I want to say Happy Thanksgiving oh and I want to tell you that as I consider all my blessings on Thanksgiving I'm really grateful for the many people have downloaded these conversations who have appreciated them who've offered their comments so I'm thankful for YOU the the the most people think the Steve Kerr is the brilliant coach of the Golden State Warriors and a longtime athlete and broadcaster and so people may have been surprised when he spoke passionately about the results of the last election and his sense of concern about the tenor of that election but if you knew something about Steve's history his remarks would have been surprising as you learn in this conversation with the other day the the the So Steve Kerr welcome you know I read a column that some columnist wrote in October saying Steve Kerr or should run for president in the States and I was thinking about the negative ad you know Steve Kerr born in Lebanon and raised among Muslims is he and so on but I don't think most people know them about your journey and how grew up then maybe you could just talk a little bit about about that sure I've been incredibly lucky in my life to to live the to grow up in the family that I grew up in awe as you said born in Beirut my dad was teaching at the American University in Beirut at the time and he was in the Middle East Political Science Professor Holt really took a job at UCLA and we move there when I was just a year to hold and spend most my childhood in Los Angeles but my dad would take sabbatical so we spent time in France Tunisia three years in Egypt and while we were living overseas we would travel as well in the summertime so I really got my education from traveling around the world living in different cultures and is probably no better education than that so really as you learn from it what you learn about those countries and cultures and what did you learn about ours well it was interesting because Kyra was the biggest influence on me because I was junior high high school age and that was late seventies of Americans were beloved in each of I couldn't walk down the street in Cairo without somebody rubbing my blonde hair and smiling and I but we we're we're a group of Americans were there with kids from all over the world I went to an American school CAC was the name of Cairo American College sin on the outskirts of Cairo in a suburb called Mahdi and I had friends from literally all over the world the American kids were mostly oil companies diplomats kids or academics like my mom and dad and we met kids from everywhere with them lot of different languages were spoken spoken at the school I actually learned Arabic halfway decently I could get around you and you know we would do all kinds of incredible stuff and we also would have had the chance to do it and how much contact as you have with with Egyptians when you are when you are there lots because there was a big Egyptian pop the population at the school and sports teams played on we would play against Egyptian schools and club teams and Euro basketball player from an early age yeah I played everything growing up back then everybody if you know you just played whatever sport was in season out so different and you play the same sport around but I played some soccer and baseball and football and basketball but basketball was always my favor tonight I really fell love with it at UCLA when my dad was a prof at that spot for not bad John Wood in the heyday of my earliest memory of these helium was when Bill Walton was playing their nineteen seventy two I believe they played their Number one in the country every game was electric sold out calm ever the student section was incredible the band it was heaven I walked in the first time I believe that I follow it and I'll never forget I don't remember anything about the game except for walking out with my dad and UCLA had beat Maryland Maryland was Number two in the country with John Lucas had to Leno up on another Tom McMillen maybe Columbia USA Colombia had another guy who play in the NBA a wave of UCLA fans were so spoiled they won seven straight national titles I walk out UCLA won by like two points and walking with my dad and the guy next to me what's wrong with our team the guys I know are not like we were last year and he starts ripping into Walnut for doing turn might ask tat we have the expectations are to our little higher than that probably pretty good lesson for winning seventy three games at winning the championship yeah I'm sure there are people who are saying the same the same thing for sure as far as part of it but those are good problems to a high class problems you know When I was a kid its tune of the research coddle my roommate went to Providence College when Marvin Barnes and Igor De Gregorio are there and they were in the Final Four and his parents had a relationship with problems and they gave us these tickets to go to the Final Four we hitch hiked down from Chicago to games at the checkered omen same with his old barn and in that final game Bill Walton was a game where he had against Memphis State Larry Keenan in the past twenty one of twenty two he had and it was maybe the most I mean I watch Michael Jordan for thirteen years in Chicago that was maybe the most perfect game I'd ever seen anybody play yet a lot bunch of assists to his baskets were mostly jump shots and bank shots none dark you couldn't dunk back dancer had delayed and I remember watching the game on TV yeah it was it was seventy to seventy three twenty three was seventy years old but that was the reason I fell in love with basketball was growing up in that environment and my parents would send me camp and in the summer and just absolutely fell in love with it and what a narrative to grow up as a as a sports well was on this podcast and talked about stealing that stealing but it wouldn told them You can't be involved in anti war citizens just write a letter and express yourself on this so he went down to the coach's office and got a sheet of paper with wooden was wooden stationary secretary gave it to him and he wrote a letter calling Nixon a war criminal in asking him to resign wooden stage I players to sign into and wooden was not amused by the said forget the letter was part of I the scene of Walden sitting on Wall Street Boulevard to you knowing it Chuck Young the Chancellor of UCLA and it was there's a great documentary on HBO probably ten twelve years he goes about UCLA dynasty and dealt alot with that Vietnam era and to protest the dichotomy that wouldn't presented as this iconic figure kind of cut straight out of the fifties yes with this incredibly virtuous way coaching this group of players in the Miss Vietnam kind of trying to figure out how the world works and what it was just an amazing figure for so but I highly recommend that that documentary well what's extraordinary is everybody love I mean his players revered him the bill Walton was the ultimate renegade and he revered John Wood until the day John wooden dies so he still talks about him referential ease so I want to I want to talk more about politics and sports but I just want a return to your years overseas home and ask you um I mean there are two ways it works one is you you get an appreciation for other cultures together an appreciation for other how other cultures see the United States and so I guess I'm interested in that what living overseas well I saw poverty up close I mean we we lived in a nice suburb but everywhere you went in Cairo at the time you see poor people living on the streets there is an entire community of trying to remember the name of the suburb of Cairo that basically called the city of of the dead because of people who lived basically in the cemetery and underneath his mausoleum soon and we saw this everyday and would see beggars asking for but sheesh you know that for her to connect I have some money to have something we saw as every single day and it struck me because growing up in Pacific Palisades in Los going to UCLA campus for basket I didn't see any of that I did I was so I was a middle class kid growing up in a wonderful environment so I saw poverty some people see it and in our country but I never saw in our country I saw it there but I also saw a totally different way of life is like it's playing soccer on the street with two two rocks as the goal and I bundled up rag for a ball but I saw people as I said from over the world people were so nice to us Americans is nice and were below my parents had this really eclectic group of friends with barbecues all the time people from all over the world and it just it taught me about other cultures who taught me about compassion and understanding that everybody grows up in a different environment world differently and so it did I think it made me more compassionate and it also made me appreciate our own country for not only the comforts of the freedom that we live in but just for the joy that we were allowed every day most people don't grow up with great joy in their lives are just struggling to survive and that's that struck me pretty hard age you and your dad went back to Lebanon to become president of the American University in Beirut An and has had a tragic tragic and they are of talk about that And what happened and how did you find out about it well he was so backed by the way was he grew up in Lebanon his parents were missionaries after World War One we went to Turkey and Armenia they helped with the Armenian orphanage and they were relief workers and during the Turkish Armenian Holocaust and you know once the war ended they were to travel they ended up in Beirut I think actually I think you some of the orphanages that they helped war in Lebanon across the border and so they fell in love with love and on and settled there and they became employees of the American University my grandfather was a chemistry professor my grandmother was the dean of women and they raise their family them so my dad was born raised in Beirut of went to boarding school and on the East Coast and Deerfield and went to Princeton but went back to UB where my mom was on her junior year abroad from Occidental College that's where they met and and um so it's a credible story but his dream job once he became professor UCLA his dream job was always to go back and be the president of the American University in Beirut so when he finally had the opportunity of took it despite his at a very dangerous time was she out of him and for the most part you know up until that time the university had been kind of an oasis there have been problems at the embassy and you know with any any military presence you know you there was a lot of fear at the time but the university up until the early eighties had been pretty much left alone but just before and as he took the job his predecessor was kidnapped and so you know he'd already taken the job he didn't want to back out he spent the first I think nine months or so on the job in New York while the political circumstances quieted down and that he ultimately went there and I was there with him younger brother my other brother was a freshman in high school so he went to live with them I was heading off to University of Arizona as a freshman and so I went to stay there for about a week and see the campus and that would've been in August of eighty three and assassinated in January of eighty four so he's only on campus for four months was he was he worried was he frightened going back he was you know my sister tells a story about spending a night with my dad and Hotel in New York before he went over there and he expressed his fear to her he didn't say much to the rest of us and I think also older she's older yeah we had some typical sort of insulation when nothing bad has ever happened to you think us not happen to me it's not going happen to us and we had some of that I think and my dad was beloved in the Middle East he spoke fluent Arabic he was a champion for from the Palestinian cause if anything we were little more worried about right wing Israeli politics than anything going on in Lebanon are five remember about an eighth grade are our car in Pacific policies said fire bombed by a rightwing zealot with the Jewish Defense League so we had had an experience with that of fear but it just wasn't something that caused us to say boy this is you know this is really dangerous was more like I had I think we think you'll be okay with others and be okay again he grew up there he spoke fluent Arabic which is hard it's simply because he was an American this was two years after the the Marine barracks was I don't even think it was two years after I think it was two months after we sat right now oh and I think that happened in October of eighty three could be S embassy had been bombed somewhere in that time is well and so all the stuff is now going on around the city and absolutely concerned but when he first took the job we we were sort of probably dissolution which mom over there with him she went with them when when he left when he took over on campus for good which was August of eighty three which my mom my other brother I stayed for about a week just to to visit and I went off to college now that was the story in of itself it took me three days to get out of the country because of shelling and was going on during the Civil War I mean you look back on it and you go My God what the hell we doing there you know it's but it's hard to explain but at the time I think my dad felt relatively safe and insulated because of his experience here because of how many friends he had in the community and because he was part of the university which as I said was educating thousands of prominent Arabs from all over Middle East and so if we felt we felt like he was somewhat safe and obviously wasn't you got a call at that school the US call and January January eighteen oh friend who worked at the University of man in vile he so lonely in a good Armenian name are our family has this incredible Armenian connection because of the work my grandparents did I still have Armenian people come up to me that to this day over the country thank you for your grandparents work it's really the source of pride for family but to Mr. Simone and worked at the university good family friend and he called me in like three o'clock in the morning my dorm gave me the news and I mean this is I don't mean to it it's going to paint a very painful memory were you surprised when you heard the news or what a joy so you really did makes you knew that he was vulnerable but you had this sense that it would be okay had a sense it was going to be OK you know but again you look back on it of the Marine barracks were bombed in October to three months before I think over three hundred Marines were killed in devastating of the embassy had been bombed so there was danger but again there's that sort of innocent sort of shield of protection that we all kind of think we have until something horrible happens and then you realize Oh my God it's too late but it was that it was a really difficult situation my dad wanted to be there to screen job if he wanted to help people there he loved the university and he was in heaven while he was doing his job a few months nor you're you're eighteen nineteen eighteen a freshman and you guys he was I read somewhere that he was very much your counsellor on the whole basketball thing where to go to school he was like an ad for you he was I didn't had two scholarship offers out of high school both came late this summer at the last seconds of Arizona and Cal State Fullerton and he helped me because theirs are kind of stopped calling me and I thought they had pulled the scholarship I don't even offer an offer on lute Olson the classic classic great college that's what Coach was the coach at the bikini was just in his first year in the program was in shambles and he had an extra scholarship money cause he saw me plan a summer league in L A late that summer and any kind offer me scholarship at the last second but there was some confusion of my dad kind of stepped in and called everybody on both sides and wanted to get the lay and he asked me where I wanted to go to a close only graders own and so he called Lou directly said What's going to get a scholarship or not we're kind of confuse and loosen oh yeah we do and I think Luke may have been considering somebody else and I really wasn't honestly was not that good this is not false modesty was I was a kind of late bloomer but he helped kind of facilitated and I ended up getting the scholarship of the last second he came and visited me on campus in October maybe as early November we were practicing and scrimmage in Stephanie spent spent a couple nights my dorm with me and so it was nice to at least have him there he never saw me play game body he got to visit me on campus you know lost my my own father suddenly when I was a sophomore in college and the thing that struck the thing that was hardest for me was not having an opportunity to sort of say good bye and express those things that you know you kind of take for for granted but I also and I also kind of felt all the sudden like that was a line of demarcation between being a kid growing up faster I feel the way to um and there was there were lots of things and I thought about afterwards you know I didn't give me a hug when a twenty line and and he remember he left my dorm room and in typical Kerr fashion he left two of his suits in my class I had great runs in the family I leave stuff all the time he came back fifteen minutes later and tells us Osama and didn't give a hug you know it bothers me to this day and say goodbye and I think about him all the time because what's happened in my careers so far fetched it really is like you know I was hoping I could actually get in the rotation and plays you know maybe for a couple years and earn some playing time and to end up having this career and not being able to share any of it with him he would have he would have just loved every second of it now I love sharing it with I I can't tell you how much I identify with because I think my dad who was an immigrant would have been stunned that I ended up working for the president of the United surprise so yeah those are is that that's the the pain or not knowing your family not knowing your kids and Yeah yeah it's tough I want to go from The Sacred To The profane and take a short break for word from our sponsor and will be right back with Steve Kerr or rocket mortgage by Quicken loans proudly supports the X Files when it comes to the big decision of choosing a mortgage lender is important to work with someone you can trust leisure best interests in mind with rockin' mortgage you'll get a transparent online process that gives you the confidence you need to make an informed decision to give the bank of the waiting and go completely online at Quicken loans dot com slash X Files equal Housing lender license in all fifty states and MLS consumer access dot org Number thirty thirty one I know I'm going back and forth between basketball and and and more substantive but elements of your life best moments of your life but you've seen the Middle East kind of explode the reason for so that was it I read somewhere that was a forerunner of his blob that is suspected in your dad's assassination of Iranian ties we actually ended up suing the Iranian government would have been about two thousand to home in Washington DC mom made and nobody showed up from their side was more as my brother called to do is free therapy we all got to get up on the stand and talk about how much it hurt us but Tom was basically has the line was the it was done because of the most prominent American in the city and he was he was killed only because of his his nationality being American it was ironic because he had spent his whole life helping Arabs and helping trying to foster peace in the Middle East that was his entire area of focus but that may have been in some ways also an impetus because perhaps the most dangerous people were the ones who could build bridges sir like tech ravine right exactly sing Sing pry the single most since the someone killed the arch Duke Ferdinand probably the most single most meaningful assassination in the glow on the globe was that of its Akron team and for just the same effort trying to find a piece exactly exactly you mention your brother your brother your brother was in on the National Security Council under the Clinton ministry how did he go what what led him to that career I want to talk about all your successful sibling happy with what the heck happened to you will be thrilled time somebody asked my mom about me she has let me tell you about Steve's siblings I was very proud of all of us and deservedly so but you did your brother did some of these experiences lead her brother into an interest in national security I think so um he he went to University of Arizona the Thunderbird is a school in Phoenix but he got a job it was a low level job in and in the NAC and out but he he was right there in THE situation room and he had he worked with a lot of people who were right the mix and President Clinton wouldn't have really recognized him but I'll never forget when when we played the bullets with the Bulls have been I think ninety six we went to Washington and President Clinton came in our locker room and he was so prepped for every meeting so somebody prep team told him that my brother worked in the National Security Council so he came up to my locker Steve your brother Anders doing such a fine job for Rose said he would have no good but he was Andrew was there for oh I think for five years I may be wrong on that but it's great every time we come to town he would take our team on a tour the White House back then it was so easy you just walk through one metal detector and Tony KU coach to Croatian teammate and yes Chicago one time we were standing in the Oval Office with my brother about five of us on this tour he said I cannot believe this he said in my home country I couldn't even come within one block of the presidential palace in and out here I am standing in the president's office it was a great symbol of American freedom yeah yeah you you you have a sister who's active in politics in Britain and England her husband is a professor at Cambridge and she's a local politician and I kind of like a city council would be here and my older brother is a professor at Michigan State in agricultural economics and whatever that is that means but he he does a lot of work overseas travels everywhere he said he does research on Third World agriculture and neck and the economy and how did the POW different cultures can help make the best use of their resources and if you ask me anything more about it I wouldn't I wouldn't know what he does a lot of important stuff you know it's it seems like it and with climate change and everything that's coming even more significant and an important area to study so what would you have done you have this I was able I'm a full season ticket holder have been for forty years so I saw you hit a lot of shots and you have a pretty natural three point shot still are you the leader or you want to loot leaders in the history in terms of percentage and a not so that was kind of way my game I played a lot of great teams find a lot open shots said it was always a blast playing with Michael and Scottie Pippen Tim Duncan David Robinson I was blessed and then the best thing for me was I played for Hall of Fame coaches play for a little since Lenny Wilkins Cotton Fitzsimmons Popovich Gregg Popovich Phil Jackson who are really two incredible mentors for me along with loot and I'm going to John like if I if anybody ever wanted to coach and they want to say alright I wanted a mentoring process he could you could look at my career and that would be the blueprint mean it's amazing that I was able to play under all these incredible coach and it's you know you talk about each of them had a very distinct personality to talk about Jackson and Popovich arguably the two now among certainly among the top five coaches of all time maybe what you learn from I learned perspective of life perspective one of the things that happens when you become a professional athlete is
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Ep. 99 - Steve Kerr

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