Steve Kerr ready for grad speech, tortillas

By Jessica Lee
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Former NBA star and UA alumnus Steve Kerr won't be returning to McKale Center this weekend to nail his famous 3-point shot.

Kerr, who attended the UA from 1984-1988, will be delivering the commencement address at both ceremonies on Saturday.

After the address, President Peter Likins will confer degrees upon 3,620 undergraduates and 855 master's, 233 doctoral and 13 specialist degree candidates.

Additionally, 103 medical degrees, 46 pharmacy degrees and 149 juris doctor degrees will be conferred. Ten master of laws degrees in indigenous peoples law and policy, along with 12 master of laws degrees in international trade law will be awarded.

Returning to Arizona to give a speech on his college court will be different, Kerr said.

"I think it will be exciting. It's in such a different capacity this time around, and it will be a little daunting at the same time."

Declining to hint on the topic of his speech, Kerr did give a thumbs-up on throwing tortillas.

"I think it's great. I'll be ready for them. I'll have my queso ready, so I can have a little snack while I'm up there."

President Likins had asked Kerr to speak before receiving overtures from the White House that President Bush would consider an invitation to deliver the address at the UA.

For a brief time in March, the graduation ceremonies were consolidated and relocated to Arizona Stadium in the event that Bush would accept Likins' invitation.

Over spring break, Likins' office learned that Bush had declined, and the ceremony was moved back into McKale Center.

Kerr, who will give his address beneath his retired jersey, was a fan favorite in his time at the UA.

Prior to a 15-year successful NBA career, Kerr led the men's basketball team to the NCAA Final Four in 1988.

He went on to play for the Phoenix Suns, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Orlando Magic, the Chicago Bulls and the San Antonio Spurs, taking home five NBA championships.

Kerr is only the second NBA player in history to win two championships with two different teams in consecutive seasons.

As the NBA all-time leader in 3-point shooting percentage (.454), Kerr is now a TNT NBA analyst and a new investor in the Phoenix Suns.

As a freshman in 1984, Kerr was on head coach Lute Olson's first Arizona team. The same season, Kerr's father, Malcolm Kerr, was assassinated in Beirut, Lebanon. His dad was the president of American University of Beirut.

Seven days after his father's death, the McKale Center crowd gave Kerr a rousing ovation during Arizona's win over Arizona State University. The ovation led to that crowd's famous trademark "Steeeeve Keeerrrrr" chant during his four years in Tucson.

In April 1988, after falling in the NCAA Final Four to Oklahoma, the Cats were welcomed home with a four-mile motorcade organized by ex-mayor and UA professor Tom Volgy. The motorcade led the team into Arizona Stadium where an estimated 20,000 gathered, chanting "Steeeeve Keeerrrrr."

"This is unbelievable," Kerr told the Wildcat on April 6, 1988.

That spring, a drive to get Kerr's number retired gathered momentum. Jeff Weinstein, who organized the signature drive, said in a letter to the editor, "He is easily the most popular athlete to ever play ball in Tucson."

Kerr's jersey was retired Jan. 9, 1999.

While Kerr said he has many memories from his time spent on the basketball court, he admits giving the commencement address will now become his greatest McKale moment.

The academic procession into McKale for the morning ceremony begins at 9 a.m. and at 1:30 p.m. for the afternoon ceremony.

Kerr and Terry J. Lundgren, a 1975 UA graduate, will also receive the Alumni Achievement Award for his successful career in retailing, is one of the most powerful leaders in the fashion industry.

Past UA commencement speakers include Gov. Janet Napolitano and Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., (2003), Microsoft Vice President Deborah N. Willingham (2001), U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (1999), NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin (1998) and Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times reporter George Ramos (1998).