As Steve Kerr joins the Golden State Warriors, it’s worth looking at the history of the Phil Jackson coaching tree to see how his past players and assistants have fared when they’ve had a head coaching job.
That review shows they haven't done particularly well. Let’s run through the ones who coached for at least half an NBA season.
Jim Cleamons was a long-time assistant under Jackson. He went 28-70 as head coach of the Dallas Mavericks and was fired 16 games into his second season in 1997.
Bill Cartwright won three titles as a player under Jackson in Chicago and would join his staff as an assistant soon after retiring. But Cartwright struggled as head coach after taking over the Bulls in 2001, posting a 51-100 record.
Kurt Rambis, a longtime assistant under Jackson in Los Angeles, lasted only two seasons in Minnesota after being hired as head coach in 2009. He compiled a 32-132 record – the worst in the NBA over that two-season span. One asterisk here: Rambis did go 24-13 as an interim coach with the Lakers prior to working under Jackson.
Brian Shaw spent four seasons as a player with the Lakers under Jackson – winning three titles before joining his bench as an assistant. Shaw finally landed a head coaching job with the Nuggets last year, but went 36-46 in his first season.
In sum – Cleamons, Cartwright, Rambis and Shaw—the most notable names-- went 147-348, a .297 win percentage.
Kerr played five seasons under Jackson with the Bulls and was a member of three championship teams in Chicago before winning another two with the Spurs. Unlike the aforementioned others, Kerr doesn’t have the experience of being an assistant under the Zen Master – or any other coach for that matter.
There are three others of note, though we don’t count them among that initial group. Darrell Walker played 28 games under Jackson, then went 56-113 in three seasons as a head coach. Larry Krystkowiak played 19 games under Jackson and was 31-69 in a brief stint as Milwaukee Bucks head coach (he’s had success at the college level). And Lindsay Hunter went 12-29 as a coach with the Suns in 2012-13 after playing one season under Jackson.
So Kerr will be trying to buck a trend -- and he'll be doing so with the Warriors instead of the Knicks.