Legendary NBA coach Steve Kerr has not had an easy life. He’ll be the first to tell you.
The Beirut-born six-time NBA champion spent most of his childhood in Lebanon until his father was shot and killed in 1984. He was devastated.
As millions watch Game 4 of the NBA finals, most fans will be thinking of Steve Kerr as the former professional basketball player and the current head coach of the Golden State Warriors. Little do they know, Kerr’s life story starts in Beirut.
He spent much of his childhood in Lebanon.
Steve was born in Beirut “Stephen Douglas Kerr” to proud parents Dr. Malcolm and Ann Kerr. His father — also Beirut-born — was an American academic who specialized in the Middle East.
Steve attended Cairo American College in Egypt, the American Community School in Beirut and Palisades High School in Los Angeles.
His father was the former president of AUB.
Dr. Malcolm Kerr spent much of his childhood in Lebanon, on and near the campus of the American University of Beirut, where his parents taught for over 40 years.
Following his doctorate work at John Hopkins University in Washington D.C., Dr. Kerr returned to Beirut to teach at the American University of Beirut’s Department of Political Science.
He became president of the university in 1982. He served as president for 17 months.
His grandfather volunteered with the Near East Relief.
Steve’s grandfather, Stanley Kerr, was a well-respected American humanitarian, who spent many years volunteering with the Near East Relief after the Armenian Genocide.
Stanley and his wife Elsa Reckman Kerr met while rescuing women and orphans in Marash.
They later joined the staff of a Near East Relief orphanage in Nahr Ibrahim, Lebanon.
Stanley earned his doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania, and returned to Beirut where he became chairman of the Department of Biochemistry at the American University of Beirut.
His father was killed in 1984.
Steve’s father was shot and killed on January 18, 1984 by two gunmen outside of Beirut office. He was 52.
A possible motive regarding his assassin are still unclear, although The New York Times reports a male caller telephoned the Beirut office of Agence France-Presse shortly after his murder and said the slaying was the work of Islamic Holy War.
At the time, former President Ronald Reagan issued a statement saying in part, “Dr. Kerr’s untimely and tragic death at the hands of these despicable assassins must strengthen our resolve not to give in to the acts of terrorists. Terrorism must not be allowed to take control of the lives, actions, or future of ourselves and our friends.”
Steve said his father’s unlikely assassination left him speechless. The Kerr family later sued the Iranian government under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.
While warming up for a game at Arizona State in 1988, Kerr had to deal with a number of fans in the crowd chanting “PLO” and “your father’s history.”
Kerr said his difficult life has made him a stronger person, and a stronger coach.