Steve Kerr is tough enough to coach

Having earned a master's in Middle Eastern studies and a doctorate in education from Harvard, Susan made a career of local politics in England and represented a party that stood against the invasion of Iraq in 2003, a war that Steve also opposed. Ann wrote her memoir on Beirut, titled "Come with Me from Lebanon: An American Family Odyssey"; recently organized a symposium marking the 30th anniversary of the tragedy; and still runs the Fulbright program at UCLA. When her students enter her office, they find on her wall a copy of John's Fulbright scholar ID card and a newspaper clipping showing Steve sinking that Game 6 shot against the Jazz.

"My main regret," she recalled by phone, "and the thing that brings the most pangs, is everything Malcolm missed. The lives of his children, the fact he never saw his grandchildren. That hurts tremendously."

The reminders are always a phone call or an email away. John just sent his mother a photo from a Michigan State commencement ceremony, and in it the oldest son is the spitting image of Malcolm on the day he earned his Ph.D. As far as Steve's zillion-to-one basketball career goes, Ann said, "Wow, Malcolm would've loved every minute of it. But we've made up a belief system that brings him into it."

The way Ann tells it, Steve has his old man's self-deprecating sense of humor. But as much as he pokes fun at himself on TV, and as much as he has struck everyone from his high school coach to NBA opponents as an impossibly nice guy, Steve's inner strength has long been his greatest asset.

"So the idea that he might not be tough enough for this," John said of coaching, "is just silly." Andrew said the GM experience in Phoenix, the first time Steve had the power to hire and fire, taught him how to be decisive. Ann said that 15 years of hard NBA playing, of managing the stress that comes with competing with and against the world's best players, left her son with an edge.

He'll need that edge now more than ever. Kerr turned down Phil Jackson and the Knicks for a shot to lead the Warriors to postseason places Mark Jackson did not lead them.

Kerr will confront this new challenge as an established grinder, an overachiever and a survivor scarred -- but not defined -- by tragedy. He might succeed or fail as coach of Golden State, but this much is already clear:

He won't be afraid to do either.

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