Ron Adams was in his mid-60s when Steve Kerr, the head coach of the Golden State Warriors, hired him away from the Boston Celtics. Adams, 70, fit the bill for what Kerr was looking for: a wise man, someone who had coached for decades but wasn’t looking to be promoted, someone who would speak his mind. So in the summer of 2014, The New York Times writes, Kerr took Adams to dinner.
“I wanted a truth-teller, somebody to tell me, ‘You gotta do this, and you gotta do that,’ completely unfiltered,” Kerr said to The New York Times. “Somebody whose experience and wisdom made everyone stand up and listen. I knew right then that we were talking to the right guy, and I’m just thankful we have him because he’s been instrumental in all that we’ve done.”
The Warriors are uncommonly engaged with the outside world. Kerr and several of his players have been sharply critical of President Trump and have taken public stances against police shootings, inequities in the justice system and the rise in racist rhetoric. Adams plays a subtle role in all this. He urges an already intellectually curious team to keep learning, reading and searching. He is always eager to talk big ideas like religion, philosophy, sociology and especially politics. This worldly fascination started early, growing up on a farm in central California. He was hired as an assistant coach straight out of college, and he never played again. While he was head coach of Fresno State, the team won 43 games and lost 72. Adams resigned. He continued to be an assistant to different teams, but doubt about coaching tore at him. He had an existential crisis about what he should be doing. It seemed like Boston would be his last stop. Then Kerr took Adams to dinner. He joined the Warriors in 2014. He told The Times, “I’m an older coach. I had to change.” Now, he’s on an extremely tight-knit team, and he’s revered like a grandfather: stern and sharp enough to command respect and set a high bar, but confident enough to let himself be ribbed for his age.