Two NBA coaches shine spotlight on Armenians

Coaches Steve Kerr and Rex Kalamian with the Armenian fans (Photo: Golden State Warriors)

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — More than 300 exuberant Bay Area Armenians gathered together on January 4 to cheer on the Golden State Warriors during an action-packed Armenian Community Night at the Chase Center.

After a wild buzzer-beater game, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr and Detroit Pistons assistant coach Rex Kalamian came together for a courtside chat with community members.

Wearing a customized Armenian Community Night tee-shirt that all guests received, Kerr thanked everyone for their support and said his connection with Armenia runs deep.

“It seems not a week goes by when I don’t have an Armenian thank me for what my grandparents did 100 years ago and it’s truly humbling,” Kerr reflected. “I try to think of them at 21, 22 years old.  Imagine that, and traveling to Turkey and Armenia, running an orphanage and helping to save young children. It’s one of the things I’m most proud of in my family.” 

Kerr’s paternal grandparents Stanley and Elsa were instrumental in saving thousands of orphans in Marash from 1919-1922 and helping them get to safety in Beirut, where they helped to build and run the Near East Relief orphanage for Armenian boys at Nahr Ibrahim. They remained in Beirut for most of their lives, educating generations of students, many of them orphans, at the American University of Beirut.  

Coach Steve Kerr speaks to crowd (Photo: Golden State Warriors)

Los Angeles filmmaker Ani Hovannisian, who is currently working on a documentary that follows the giant footsteps of three generations of Kerrs and their century-long legacy of service to humanity, moderated the post-game panel. 

Kalamian, for his part, recalled the story of his grandmother who survived the Genocide and lived in an orphanage that saved her life. He also addressed the current humanitarian crisis in Artsakh. “We have to keep them [the people of Artsakh] in our hearts, in our minds, and we have to try to do whatever we can do to push forward and make change there.” 

Coach Rex Kalamian speaks (Photo: Golden State Warriors)

The coaches went on to discuss the culture of basketball in Armenia. Kalamian, who coached the Armenian Men’s National Basketball team to victory in 2022, talked about introducing a junior NBA program in Armenia and about the nonprofit work of Hoops 4 Hayastan, building courts and bringing the joy of basketball to young people in rural areas. A portion of the event’s ticket proceeds will be used to support the group’s mission.

Hoops 4 Hayastan founders and volunteers with Coach Rex Kalamian (Photo: Golden State Warriors)

Kerr suggested a Basketball Without Borders camp in Armenia, a week-long youth basketball program that promotes positive social change with the participation of NBA coaches and players. 

The courtside conversation was the culminating event of an evening full of Armenian camaraderie and culture. 

Yerevan Dance Group (Photo: Golden State Warriors)

Before the game, Armenian children lined the tunnel and high-fived the players from the Golden State Warriors as they ran onto the court. The Yerevan Dance Group group performed a traditional Armenian dance, and Piedmont high-school student and KZV Armenian school graduate Danielle Zaroukian sang the national anthem in front of a roaring crowd.

Danielle Zaroukian sings national anthem (Photo: Golden State Warriors)

During half-time, community leader Moushig Andonian was honored with the Impact Warrior Award for more than 40 years of dedication and service to Armenian youth and the community in the Bay Area and beyond. “We are a nation of warriors,” he said. “I would do it for another 40 years if I could.”

Many Bay Area Armenian organizations and churches came together to participate in this memorable event organized by the Golden State Warriors with the support of Warriors staff, Community Relations manager Claudia Leist and community member Kim Bardakian Demirjian. Plans are already underway for next year.
Guest Contributor

Guest Contributor

Guest contributions to the Armenian Weekly are informative articles or press releases written and submitted by members of the community.

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