Tonight at Oakland’s Oracle Arena, Berkeley undergraduate Maddy Kerr and her family will cheer on the Golden State Warriors — and their coach, her dad, Steve Kerr — as a best-of-seven series rematch of last year’s NBA finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers begins. Berkeley News caught up with the 21-year-old senior and student-athlete earlier today for a chat about the close-knit Kerrs, living by example and the odds of a Warriors championship.
Berkeley News: You just finished the stress of final exams. How stressful is it for you to watch the playoffs?
It’s awful. During the regular season, it was super fun. The Warriors won 73 games, and there’s not too much stress in that. But now everything can turn on a dime. Mostly my mom and I get really nervous. We can’t even talk. We just sit next to each other at the games, and if something really bad happens, I cover my face. I mostly only go to the home games, so if I’m watching a game on TV, I have to pace around and do other things. I have so much nervous energy.
None of us in the family yells out during games, but if we win, we definitely stand up with the crowd and cheer. My dad pumped his fist in the air the other night (when the Warriors beat Oklahoma City and advanced to the finals) for the first time ever, I think. I also love to see my dad’s face when Steph Curry hits a ridiculously good shot.
Will you be flying to Cleveland for the games there next week?
We’ll be in Cleveland; we always go to the NBA finals. During the finals last year, the owners of the Warriors chartered a plane for all the families to go to Cleveland together and stay in the same hotel. We all got closer because of that. I actually see the families of the players more than the players themselves. I only see the players in passing, and sometimes I get to say hi or give them a head nod.
Is everyone in the family an athlete?
My little brother Matthew, who just graduated from high school in San Diego, hates sports. He only played one sport, when he was 4, and that was soccer. And he played for only one game. But he’s very competitive and watches Warriors games because he wants our dad to win. He’d never watch other teams play against each other.
He’s going to go to film school at USC next fall, and we’re really proud of him. He’s like my dad, who was an outlier in his family because he was an athlete. And my mom comes from an artistic background. Her mom is a retired English professor, an author, a poet and a painter.
Higher education and humanitarian work played a big role in the lives of your father’s parents and grandparents. (In the 1920s following the Armenian genocide, Stanley and Elsa Kerr ran an orphanage in Lebanon for Armenian children and raised funds for survivors. They were on the American University of Beirut faculty for 40 years. Their son, Malcolm, was president of the AUB until his 1984 murder by anti-American religious fanatics). How is their legacy part of your life?
I am interested in my family history, and my dad’s super-cultured background, and more than anything, it’s given us an open-mindedness, it’s taught us that we as Americans are not the only people in the world, and that we have to be educated about and sensitive to other people’s experiences. This is important, and especially important to remember during an election year.
You’re going into your third year as captain of the Cal women’s volleyball team. What has your dad taught you about leadership?
My dad is really good with people, and he knows that you need to get to know people, to know how to talk to them, to be able to help them and get something out of them. I don’t have as much patience as he does, but I try to be the same way, to know the players’ personalities and how to handle being in the heat of moment. I’ve definitely tried to take some of that from him.
He really appreciates his players, too. They’re such a good mix of people, and they complement each other really well. He knows their personalities help them win. He’s so grateful for that.
I’m also feisty and outspoken like my mom. She’s tough. In volleyball, it helps to be a vocal player, especially in my position as libero. You need to be commanding the entire back row and communicating.
Will you continue your blog for the volleyball team, Kerr’s Korner?
Yes. I write every week during the season, about anything I want that’s happened that week, generally speaking. I like doing it, but we have had a couple really tough seasons the past two years, and it gets hard not being able to write about winning, But I try to keep everyone’s spirits up. And we’ve made a lot of strides this spring. Everyone’s worked hard, and we’ve improved a lot as a team.
You’re also a double major, in media studies and rhetoric. Any idea what you’d like to do as a career?
I’m not sure what I want to do, but I’m enjoying my classes. Rhetoric is a lot of critical reading and writing, and I might want to use media studies to work in marketing and public relations. The whole media studies program is really great because the course content it offers is constantly evolving with the times. Technology and the media are always changing.
I know I want to work after graduation and go from there. Last year, I interned with Super Bowl 50’s host committee in San Francisco and did marketing and public relations for them and really liked it.
Summer’s almost here. What are your plans, and – with your love of edgy TV series like Narcos and the Serial podcast — what will you be watching next, in your down time?
I have to be back at Berkeley for volleyball practice starting July 5. We can never make time as a family for vacation at this time of year because of the playoffs, but we might be able to sneak away for a week. Our house in San Diego is home base for us in the summer, and we’ll always keep that house, but now that my little brother’s going to college, my mom will be moving up to the Bay Area to live with my dad. He lives in Berkeley most of the time.
My older brother Nick has one more year at Berkeley in the master’s program at the School of Public Health. He’ll be a graduate student assistant for the Cal basketball team next fall. He wants to get into coaching.
It’s kind of embarrassing how much we hang out with our parents, probably three to four times a week. My parents are really cool, they’re honestly our best friends. We go out to eat a lot — the Bay Area has the best food ever — and watch TV and talk. There’s always something to talk about.
I haven’t really been watching so much TV lately, but the new season of Orange is the New Black is coming out soon, and I want to start House of Cards. The whole family watches it.
What’s your guess as to whether the Warriors will repeat as NBA champs?
I think they’re going to win. I don’t how how many games, but I don’t really see us losing any time soon. There’s a belief that they can beat anybody. They have such incredible skill and playing ability.
LeBron James (of the Cleveland Cavaliers) is amazing, but hopefully we’ll have all the right answers.