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The Buck Stops Here: Steve Kerr displays genius by not coaching Warriors

There are always exceptions. Tom Brady has co-existed with Bill Belichick for 18 seasons in the NFL. Tim Duncan played all 19 NBA seasons under Gregg Popovich, who has been coaching Tony Parker for 16 years and Mano Ginobili for 15. They're traces of evidence that it can work.

For the vast majority, the connection between coaches and players lasts only a few years. Messages grow stale, systems become tired, expectations fall short, relationships become frayed and suddenly changes are necessary. Like many a failed marriage, a lack of communication often marks the end.

Steve Kerr, who won 250 games faster than any coach in history, knew as much Monday night before turning his duties over to his players during the Warriors' 129-83 rout over the Suns. He had tried stimulating his troops for several weeks and failed. He sensed they were becoming bored against weaker teams and tuning out his message.

What to do? Let them run the show.

According to ESPN.com, Andre Iguodala ran the shootaround Monday morning and called the shots in the huddle during the first quarter against the Suns. Draymond Green, who missed the game with an injured finger, issued instructions during one timeout while pleading with his teammates to engage.

"It's their team," Kerr told reporters after the game. "I think that's one of the first things you have to consider as a coach. It's not your team, it's not (general manager) Bob Myers' team, it's not (owner) Joe Lacob's team -- although I'm not going to tell Joe that. It's the players' team, and they have to take ownership."

And they did.

Golden State scored 74 points in the middle two quarters and earned its third straight win after losing three of four. Kerr kicked backed and enjoyed most of the game from a distance. He was well aware that you, me or Kim Jong-un could coach his team on certain nights.

He's also smart enough, and secure enough, to comprehend there are times in which the Warriors need anyone but him. The objective was pushing his team in the right direction, even if it meant removing himself from the equation. He shared as much with Suns interim coach Jay Triano.

"I told Jay afterward that it had nothing to do with being disrespectful," Kerr said. "It had to do with me reaching my team. I have not reached them for the last month. They're tired of my voice. I'm tired of my voice. It's been a long haul these last few years and I wasn't reaching them, and we just figured it was probably a good night to pull a trick out of the hat and do something different."

The Warriors are 251-52 in three-plus seasons under Kerr, a record that includes the 39-4 mark Golden State had when Luke Walton coached the team while Kerr recovered from back surgery in 2015-16. The Dubs reached the finals in each of his first three seasons and won two titles.

For Kerr, the trick will be keeping his team's attention through the dog days of February and March. Golden State has won by 10 points or more 29 times this season, a figure that would be higher if it kept its foot on the accelerator late in fourth quarters.

In a sports world loaded with over-coaching, his genius was in not coaching. If other teams felt disrespected by the Warriors, stop them.

"I just feel like when we're focused, we are really tough to beat, and tonight we were focused," Kerr said. "And I think just having to count on each other, and not hearing my voice – which sort of sounds like Charlie Brown's teacher or parent or whoever's voice that is. At this point, that's what I sound like to them. So, they needed a different voice."

Striking gold

What impact does a gold medal make? Eight years after winning the gold medal in the four-man bobsled, Buffalo native and City Honors grad Steve Mesler still feels the emotion that comes with the Olympics. Barely a day passes without him thinking about his historic moment in Vancouver.

"I get to relive it whenever we watch our athletes on television, and I see a flag go up, whether it's an American flag or any other flag," Mesler said Monday on the "Bucky & Sully Show" on 1270 The Fan. "I love the Olympics because, every day, I'm reliving my moment over and over again. It's incredible."

Mesler's teen years coincided with the Bills losing four Super Bowls. Their defeats encouraged him to keep pushing, literally and figuratively, when Team USA finished seventh during the 2006 Winter Games in Italy. He became emotional after winning in 2010, knowing it was a win for Buffalo.

"I sobbed a lot for a couple weeks," he said. "It all kind of hits you. It's funny. I always thought whether it was watching somebody winning the Stanley Cup finals or whatever and they get on television and they're like, 'How does it feel?' And they're like, 'I don't even have any words.'

"I always thought: You've been waiting for this your whole life. How do you not know what to say? You've been planning what to say since you were a kid. I can talk; I'm not going to lie. And I was speechless for quite a long time after that."

Mesler spends much of his time these days working with Classroom Champions, a nonprofit he co-founded with his sister that has connected more than 25,000 students and some athletes through interactive media. He's also a U.S. Olympic Committee board member who will travel to Pyeongchang next week.

"It's being able to be there, being able to support the athletes," he said. "It's kind of a really neat part of the role that I get to take up now."

What's a catch?

Tony Dungy made a great point on NBC's Sunday Night Football back in Week 12 while explaining why officials made the right call in taking away Jesse James' apparent touchdown. If you remember, it came in the Patriots' win over the Steelers. The problem, he told host Dan Patrick, was the rule.

"This is absolutely the right call based on the rule," Dungy said. "But I tell you, Dan, flag football, high school football, college football. Any place you play football, other than the NFL, that's a touchdown."

The NFL is expected to re-examine "possession" in an effort to gain more clarity. The league has tinkered so much over the years that it's miles from where it started. If the league is willing to adjust, it should consider radical changes to clear up rules for viewers and make life easier for officials.

One would be allowing the ground to cause a fumble between goal lines, forcing players to maintain possession like they did years ago. If the ball pops out when hitting the turf, it's a fumble. If the ball comes free when hitting the ground out of bounds, it's a fumble out of bounds.

However, the moment a player with possession breaks the plane of the goal line, it should be a touchdown. In other words, if the ground causes a fumble directly on the goal line or in the end zone, it's a touchdown.

Another wise move would be requiring receivers to keep only one foot in bounds when making a catch rather than two. It works fine in the college game. It would be considerably easier for NFL officials to check possession and one foot rather than two and limit controversy and subsequent play stoppages.

Armstrong's arm problems

Former Clarence High pitching star Mark Armstrong, selected out of high school by the Reds in the third round in 2013, has retired from baseball. Armstrong confirmed Tuesday that his pitching arm didn't respond well after undergoing three surgeries, the latest to remove bone spurs.

As it turned out, Armstrong made a wise decision to turn down a scholarship to Pittsburgh and play pro ball. The right-hander, whose fastball was in the 93-94 mph range in high school, signed a contract that included a $500,000 bonus. The Reds also agreed to pay tuition to a state school if baseball didn't work out.

"We made sure when I signed in case the worst happened that it was a win-win," Armstrong said Tuesday via text. "Used some money to buy a house too."

Armstrong, 23, is attending Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, where he co-owns a sports facility with Dayton Dragons (Class A) manager Luis Bolivar. He's also coaching a high school team at a school similar to Clarence High. If his arm fully recovers and he wants to pitch again, the Reds left the door open.

"Got pretty lucky," he said.

Quotable

Red Gerard, 17, who won a gold medal in men's snowboard slopestyle, on whether his family was having fun at the Olympics: "I’m pretty sure I saw a video of them shotgunning beers at 8:30 a.m., so I’m pretty sure they are doing just fine.”

Stats Inc.

9 – Road teams that won the nine games played in the NHL on Sunday, the most for a single day in league history.

14 – Goals scored at even strength by Sam Reinhart in 135 games over two seasons before Tuesday's matchup with the Lightning. He scored 15 times at even-strength in 79 games as a rookie.

13 – Conference losses for Pittsburgh in basketball, the same number ACC powers Virginia, Clemson, Duke and North Carolina had combined.

Extra Points

Attendance was down 1,409 per game across the country for FBS teams from the previous season. According to CBS Sports, it's the largest drop in 34 years and second-largest since the NCAA started keeping track in 1948. Attendance has fallen six times in the past seven years. Times are changing.

If you're looking for an interesting read, check out Fox Sports radio host Doug Gottlieb's candid account of him stealing credit cards as a freshman guard at Notre Dame. The piece, posted by www.theathletic.com, reveals how certain young-and-dumb mistakes can follow someone for years. It will leave you conflicted.

Going into Tuesday's games, the expansion Vegas Knights were running away with the Pacific Division with a 36-15-4 record to lead the Western Conference. The Senators didn’t win their 36th game until six games into their fourth season after going 33-165-18 in their first three years, which included a 48-game season in 1995-96.

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