When Mark Jackson became coach of the Warriors in 2011-12, he joined a team that had only made the playoffs once in the previous 17 seasons. But the job was attractive because Stephen Curry was about to start his third season and had shown signs of becoming a superstar.
Their first season together was somewhat of a bust as Curry played just 26 games due to an ankle injury, and the Warriors missed the playoffs again. But Curry and Jackson led the Warriors to playoff appearances the next two seasons, as the sixth seed in the Western Conference both times.
During this time, Curry had developed so much that after last season he said he was a better offensive player than LeBron James, and it wasn't considered ridiculous.
If Curry can take the next step and become a championship player like LeBron, he will do it without Jackson as coach. Although Curry was vocal in his opinion that the Warriors should retain Jackson, ownership decided to replace him after Golden State lost a seven-game series to the Clippers in the midst of the Donald Sterling saga.
Now Steve Kerr will be Curry's fourth coach in six seasons. Don Nelson and Keith Smart were before Jackson. Kerr has no NBA coaching experience but he is a five-time NBA champion as a player and was general manager of the Phoenix Suns. Before joining the Warriors, Kerr had been Phil Jackson's first choice to coach the Knicks.
"He's been really personable with everybody, reaching out individually and making sure they hear from him what he views their role on the team and the impact these guys are going to have," Curry says of Kerr. "The system he wants to put in, as a first time head coach, you obviously have a detailed plan. It's kind of just a feeling out process in training camp, as you implement it, so we'll work hard. We're going to be a tough team defensively and offensively."
Mark Jackson and Kerr had different strengths as players. Jackson was a pass-first point guard and ranks fourth on the league's all-time assists list. Kerr relied on a deadly jumper. He went 726 for 1,599 (45.4 percent) in his career on three-pointers. Kerr also dropped a series of clutch triples playing alongside Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Tim Duncan and David Robinson on title teams coached by Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich.
"He's been on winning teams," Curry says. "He's played for two Hall of Fame coaches and two great organizations. He'll bring all those lessons and wisdom and basketball I.Q. to the table. He's another shooter too that can hopefully school me."
The Warriors have a deep mix of youth and veterans with Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green all 26 or younger, and David Lee, Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut all 29 or older. The addition of 28-year-old guard Shaun Livingston will only help.
During the past two years, the roster has maintained consistency, which means many players have experienced two consecutive frustrating playoff series losses. Curry believes the past two seasons have helped the Warriors grow. The Warriors defeated the Nuggets in the first round of the 2013 playoffs before losing to the Spurs. In 2014, Golden State lost the seven-gamer to the Clippers. Unexpected factors hindered the team's ability to reach its full potential in both postseasons.
"We need to keep learning the lessons of how to win," Curry says. "We played two very good teams that have ousted us in the last two seasons. We'd love to be 100 percent healthy. We didn't have David Lee [two years ago] and Bogut was out this [past] year. Those are things you can't control. Whoever suits up has to be able to get the job done."
Lee missed much of the 2013 playoffs with a torn hip flexor. Bogut missed last year's series against the Clippers with a rib injury.
The Warriors expect to start 2014-15 in full health. With the youth another year older and the veterans still in good shape, the team believes it can compete with the best in the west. Kerr may be a catalyst to put Golden State's strategic agenda over the edge.
Wherever the Warriors go, one thing is for certain: Stephen Curry is the superstar. Curry has climbed the ladder from under-recruited high school player to cult college star to upstart NBA rookie to NBA All-Star. But he wants to be more.
"I want to be a championship-winning point guard. That's the mission," he says. "Individual accolades that have come recently have been because we've been winning and playing on a bigger stage. I'll continue to do my part for the team. Obviously I've got a very talented team with me. We feel like we've got what it takes to win a championship team now."
Curry averaged 24.0 points and 8.5 assists with 261 three-pointers in 78 games in 2013-14. He was an All-Star starter (second in Western Conference votes to Kobe Bryant) and was named to the All-NBA Second Team. It took five seasons, roster additions and guidance from Jackson before Curry hit superstar level. That status has led to more endorsement opportunities such as deals with Under Armour and Degree.
Showing that he understands how the marketing game is played, Curry says the Degree product slogan is actually a good description of his approach to the game.
"The harder it works, the harder you work," he says.
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.