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Elizabeth Wagele
Elizabeth Wagele

Warriors’ Calm Coach, Steve Kerr

His style was influenced by his 5-Observer father.

Drawing by E. Wagele from "The Enneagram for Teens"
Source: Drawing by E. Wagele from "The Enneagram for Teens"

Steve Kerr is head coach of the champion Golden State Warriors basketball team. He also won three NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls and two with the San Antonio Spurs as a player.

He is interested in other aspects of life besides sports: "I do believe that one way to bring cultures together, to develop trust between people and countries and religions, is through education. And through music and art and basketball and activities and joys that people share worldwide, regardless of ethnic background or religious orientation."

Kerr was born in Lebanon. His father was a professor at UCLA for 20 years and later became president of the American University of Beirut. When war broke out, a hired driver took Steve, then 18, over the Lebanon Mountains to Damascus, then to Jordan to safety. A few months later, in 1984, his father was assassinated in Beirut by a group called Islamic Holy War.

John Branch wrote about Kerr in the New York Times, 12-22-16. He describes Kerr’s interest in topics like gun control, national-anthem protests, presidential politics and Middle East policy. “With an educated and evenhanded approach, he steps into discussions that most others in his position purposely avoid.”

Kerr’s father may have been an Enneagram type 5, the Observer. Steve shows signs of being a 9-Peace Seeker, especially in his broad views of the world. He’s learned that people everywhere are basically the same and have similar goals. “Put yourself in someone else’s shoes and look at it from a bigger perspective,” he said. “We live in this complex world.” He knows that his players are complicated and shaped by background, race, religion and circumstance.

The Kerrs were touched by terrorism in the most personal way. “It’s really simple to demonize Muslims because of our anger over 9/11, but it’s so much more complex than that. The vast majority of Muslims are peace-loving people, just like the vast majority of Christians and Buddhists and Jews and any other religion,” Steve said.

If Kerr is a 9-Peace Seeker, perhaps his 8-Asserter wing was dominant when he was a child. Branch: “Kerr credits his father for his demeanor on the sideline as an N.B.A. coach: calm and quiet, mostly, and never one to berate a player. But Kerr was not always that way. ‘When I was eight, nine, 10 years old, I had a horrible temper,’ Kerr said. ‘I couldn’t control it. Everything I did, if I missed a shot, if I made an out, I got so angry. It was embarrassing. Baseball was the worst. If I was pitching and I walked somebody, I would throw my glove on the ground. I was such a brat. My dad and my mom would be watching, and he never said anything until we got home. He had the sense that I needed to learn on my own. Anything he would say would mean more after I calmed down.’”

His father was what every Little League parent should be. The talks would come later, casual and nonchalant, conversations instead of lectures. “He was an observer,” he said. “And he let me learn and experience. I try to give our guys a lot of space and speak at the right time. Looking back on it, I think my dad was a huge influence on me, on my coaching.”

• E. Wagele wrote The Enneagram of Parenting, Finding the Birthday Cake, The Enneagram of Death, and five other books (see

About the Author
Elizabeth Wagele

Elizabeth Wagele was the co-author with Ingrid Stabb of The Career Within You: How to Find the Perfect Job for Your Personality.

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