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Warriors finally feel they have home court advantage

March 11, 2022 GMT
Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, right, and Warriors Director of Engineering Ian McDoom look toward the basketball court during Kerr's tour of the Chase Center in San Francisco, Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, right, and Warriors Director of Engineering Ian McDoom look toward the basketball court during Kerr's tour of the Chase Center in San Francisco, Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, right, and Warriors Director of Engineering Ian McDoom look toward the basketball court during Kerr's tour of the Chase Center in San Francisco, Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
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Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, right, and Warriors Director of Engineering Ian McDoom look toward the basketball court during Kerr's tour of the Chase Center in San Francisco, Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
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Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, right, and Warriors Director of Engineering Ian McDoom look toward the basketball court during Kerr's tour of the Chase Center in San Francisco, Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Steve Kerr stepped outside Chase Center on a gray winter afternoon and stretched both arms out to his sides, lifting his chin as he breathed in the fresh air only a few hundred feet off San Francisco Bay.

A little while later the Warriors coach carefully climbed some steep metal stairs to reach the building’s highest vantage point and took in a spectacular view in all directions — cargo ships in the water, the Bay Bridge beyond and the city skyline.

Kerr has grown to truly appreciate Golden State’s arena even with all the emotions and fond memories from the franchise’s longtime home of Oracle Arena, a venue long known as one of the most imposing in the NBA because of its deafening crowds. The team relocated ahead of the 2019-20 season then played the first four months of the pandemic-delayed 2020-21 season without fans.

“This didn’t feel like home for a long time because it coincided with all of our injuries, so you move into Chase, the team is wiped out, we’re losing night after night, so the crowd’s not into it,” Kerr reflected. “It was disconcerting. Oracle was familiar.”

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Kerr is still learning about all the hidden gems of Golden State’s 2-year-old arena because he simply hadn’t had time to explore the entire building until recently.

That’s where the team’s director of engineering, Ian McDoom, came into the picture to provide some behind-the-scenes knowledge of the 32-month project.

Now, the Warriors are gradually establishing a home-court advantage with hopes it will one day resemble what they used to have “where you’re returning to play at home it actually feels like a home game,” Draymond Green said.

“I think the Bay has always supported their teams no matter where they’re located, Oakland, San Francisco, Santa Clara,” said Mavericks coach Jason Kidd, a former college star at Cal in Berkeley. “The crowd, when they start going, it’s as loud as anywhere in the league. They definitely have a home-court advantage here.”

In two weeks, Chase Center will be home to the West Regional of the NCAA Tournament — the first major event there other than a concert or NBA game. It will mark the first time since the inaugural 1939 March Madness tournament at Treasure Island that San Francisco is a host.

McDoom is doing regular walkthroughs to make sure everything runs smoothly on college basketball’s big stage.

“How the arena turned out design-wise, fabulous,” he said.

Kerr certainly appreciated seeing the spots that make Chase unique -- art elements at every turn, the concert entrance, music tributes and even a wall featuring the 2015 championship floor featuring hundreds of autographs where he finally found his own name among all the signatures.

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At one point, he stopped to admire a large photo of his players hanging in one hallway and instantly returned to that moment seven years ago during his first season as coach when the Warriors captured their first championship in 40 years.

New visitors this March might marvel at the large murals, such as one outside featuring Stephen Curry eating popcorn, mosaics and other distinct art elements.

Kerr said he still misses that raucous, rocking scene from Oracle Arena.

“The friendly confines as Ernie Banks used to say, Oracle, that’s what it felt like to us,” Kerr said. “Between the team’s struggles and the pandemic last year, I think it took all the way until now to really feel like this was home. Maybe a month, a couple weeks into the season, we came out of the gates hot and fans were into it, it was like, ‘All right, now this feels like home.’”

Golden State is gearing up for another playoff run that would be a first in this venue.

As the Warriors prepare for the stretch run, Kerr sometimes takes the team up to the ninth-floor Sky Bar with its picturesque views of the bay for a meeting or film session. The on-site practice facility has no windows.

“With every building it takes time to develop a personality,” McDoom said, strolling with Kerr along the main concourse level. “It’s just taking that time to develop that personality and create that identity of the arena that thankfully we have a little bit more now.”

“Sure,” Kerr said. “It takes time.”

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