SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A slight smile crept across Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr’s face when the question was finally asked.
In a week when President Donald Trump lashed out at Kerr, calling him a ‘little boy’ for not speaking out on the current chasm between the NBA and Chinese leaders, the Warriors head coach addressed the criticism.
The spat began last week after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey posted “fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong” in a tweet supporting the current demonstrations against the Chinese government in the streets of Hong Kong.
China denounced the tweet and the repercussions have included the cancellation of NBA preseason coverage on state-run CCTV.
“If we were thinking earlier I was going to ride down (to the Chase Center press room) on a tricycle with one of those beanies with a propeller on it — just because he called me a little boy,” Kerr said. “I would just ride in and see if you guys (reporters) got the joke. It is surprising (Trump comments) maybe because it was me. Then you stop and think, this is just everyday. It’s another day. I was the shiny object yesterday. There will be another one today…The circus will go on.”
Kerr, who met with reporters after Golden State’s exhibition season win over Minnesota Thursday night, said he sat in bed on Tuesday night, thinking about his visits to the White House over the years as a NBA coach and player.
The Warriors did not visit the Trump White House after their 2018 NBA championship.
“Last night, I was thinking about my various visits to the White House, I’ve lived a privileged life,” he said. “I met the past five presidents prior to President Trump. The first one was in 1984 and Ronald Reagan was president. He invited my mom and me six months after my dad was killed in a terrorist attack. President Reagan and Vice President (George HW) Bush invited us into the Oval Office and sat about half an hour with us, thanking us for my dad’s service. Thanking us for my dad’s commitment to trying share American values in the Middle East.”
“All I could think to myself last night was the contrast of what has happened over the last 35 years,” he added. “There was no regard for whose side your were on politically. It was just you were an American. The office held such dignity and respect both from the people who were visiting and especially from the people who sat inside it.”
“It’s sad that it has come crashing down and we are now living this. I realize the horse was out of the barn a long time ago. For me personally, this was my experience — Wow, has the office sunken low. My hope is we can find a mature, unifier from either party to sit in that chair and try to restore some dignity to the Oval Office again.”
Kerr said he did not see Trump’s comments live, but his phone began filling up with texts and emails right afterward.
“It was surreal,” he said.
When asked about the current NBA-China spat, Kerr said: “It is an absolutely, tricky situation for all of us to be in. I’ve been to China twice in the last two years — once with the Warriors and once with Team USA. Basketball is wildly popular over there. So from my perspective, the NBA is doing a lot of good things in terms of helping to unify people in the world. The game itself is a unifier.”
“All of a sudden that has met these political forces, business forces, and we are sort of thrust in the middle of it. Frankly, we really don’t know what to make of it… I’ve learned more about what is going on both sides. One of the things, I have learned is that this story has many vantage points, depending on where you looking from. So for me to sit here and say I feel really comfortable making this statement. It’s not my place.”
President Trump leveled harsh criticism of Kerr at Wednesday news conference.
“I watch this guy Steve Kerr and he was like a little boy who is so scared to be even answering the question, he couldn’t answer the question,” Trump said. “He was shaking — ‘Uh I don’t know’ — He didn’t know how to handle the question and yet he’ll talk about the United States very badly.”
Warriors star player Stephen Curry weighed in on Trump’s remarks and defended his coach following the team’s practice Wednesday.
“I think with this one, it’s a league-wide situation and our presence in China, it’s just a different conversation,” said Curry. “Coach talks about gun violence and gender equality and things that for us as being spokespeople for people who can’t speak for themselves and our communities that make a huge impact. This situation has a huge weight and gravity to it and there are some things that need to be sorted out, but I just don’t know about Chinese history and how that’s influenced modern society and that interaction to speak on it.
Curry added, “Something this big that involves the entire landscape of the league and of course with a country like China, like that’s something you’re not walking into lightheartedly saying stuff off the cuff.”Raw Video: Stephen Curry Speaks To Reporters About Trump, NBA/China Flap
President Trump has criticized the Warriors in the past, especially after the team won the NBA title in 2017 and players balked at the customary White House visit with the newly-elected Trump in office.