FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Even when the Golden State Warriors faced a 3-1 deficit in the Western Conference finals, Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn never doubted the reigning NBA champs could make a dramatic comeback and win the series.
"Everybody wanted to count them out," Quinn said.
Quinn knows the mentality Warriors coach Steve Kerr, the NBA's Coach of the Year, instills in his team because Quinn has seen it up close. He established a bond with Kerr through a mutual friend in 2013, when Quinn was the defensive coordinator for Super Bowl champion Seattle. Quinn proceeded to invite Kerr to practice.
"He spent some days at training camp with us up in Seattle," Quinn said. "Coach [Pete] Carroll and him certainly spent time together. Steve's from L.A. and played at Arizona, so he wanted to find out some of Pete's philosophies. And so he came into the defensive meetings with me -- along with team meetings -- and spent about three or four days there. And we've kept up since then.''
During this year's pre-draft process, when Quinn and his crew were working out players at Cal and Stanford, Quinn went to a Warriors game along with offensive line coach Chris Morgan and a couple of scouts. He met up with Kerr afterward.
"I just have so much respect for his approach and how he handles his guys," Quinn said of Kerr. "I think he's really honest with them. You can tell the connection they have.
"They had a great crowd; Oracle [Arena] was really rocking. Everyone was going crazy. Then [Stephen] Curry and somebody else, while everything else crazy was going on around them, you could see them look at each other like, 'We got this. Let's go.' And I thought to myself, 'That's a real poised bunch to see when everyone else is going nuts and they just look at each other like that.' That's a clip I want to find and pull it out for our team, because of that poise."
Quinn invited Kerr to Atlanta last year, but Kerr underwent back surgery and couldn't make the trip.
"Hopefully this year," said Quinn, who firmly believes the Warriors will defend their title against the Cleveland Cavaliers starting Thursday.
If Kerr does eventually make the trek to Atlanta, he might not want to invite Curry. Remember, Curry is a die-hard Carolina Panthers fan, having grown up in Charlotte, North Carolina. In fact, Curry proudly wore his custom-made Panthers jersey to the Panthers-Seahawks playoff matchup in January 2015 -- the one Seattle won 31-17 at home to advance to the NFC Championship Game.
"[Kerr] was like, 'Yeah, I'm going to come to the game,' and I asked, 'Do you need a ticket?' And he was like, 'Nah, I've got one,'" Quinn recalled. "So I said, 'How you getting it?' He said, 'Steph has a box.' And I was like, 'I got you.'"
So Curry's not invited to Atlanta, right?
"No," Quinn said with a laugh. "Steph can't come out."