The Steve Kerr lookalike swears it's all just a coincidence

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It’s no secret that Steve Gillis looks a lot like Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr.

Strangers in the airport think so. His three children think so. And now, all the sports world thinks so, after the honors English teacher at Bishop Gorman High in Las Vegas went viral while recently attending one of Kerr’s games at Chase Center. 

Gillis has heard the comparisons for nearly 30 years, dating back to Kerr’s playing days when he was winning NBA championships alongside Michael Jordan and Tim Duncan.

But here’s the thing. Unlike that infamous Klay Thompson doppelgänger who crashed the 2022 NBA Finals, Gillis claims he isn’t actively trying to resemble his famous counterpart. His spiky gray hair? That blue Nike hoodie he wore to the Warriors game? These are mere coincidences, he told FOX Sports.

“Our club is sponsored by Nike, so I’m in Nike clothes all the time,” said Gillis, who was an assistant coach on the US Men’s National Volleyball team in 1998 and currently runs the Summerlin Volleyball Academy, which he founded alongside his wife. “…There was no intent there in terms of how I try to cut my hair or anything like that. For me, it’s kind of a funny similarity that works out.”

When Gillis’ siblings treated the self-proclaimed passionate Golden State fan to his first-ever Warriors game on March 9 as a birthday present, he suspected a few people would say something to him. 

But he couldn’t anticipate what would happen after he entered the arena. 

Cameras immediately spotted Gillis, who was seated about four rows from the court. His face was shown on the video board twice before the game began. The local television broadcast even panned to Gillis, with an NBC Sports Bay Area announcer saying, “He looks more like Steve than Steve.”

Security guards were so amused that they moved Gillis and his 10-year-old daughter as close as possible to the tunnel in hopes that Kerr would spot his doppelgänger. 

“The policeman said, ‘Dude, you could take a left and a left, meaning you could go down the hallway, down the tunnel and into the locker room and no one would say a thing,” Gillis said.

The rest of the night was a blur. 

Gillis felt as though the seas would part whenever he walked past fans. Former Spurs player Sean Elliott shook his hand. And at halftime, tennis great Roger Federer even approached Gillis as he walked into the tunnel alongside Warriors owner Joe Lacob. 

Roger Federer grabbed a photo with the Steve Kerr lookalike. (Photo courtesy of Steve Gillis)

“Roger looks at me and says, ‘Let’s take a picture,” Gillis said. “He takes three selfies with me. And then he pats me on the shoulder and says, ‘Thanks.’ …The fact that he was so gracious and nice about it, I’m thinking, ‘I wonder if he knew I wasn’t Steve Kerr?'”

For Gillis, the Kerr comparisons have wildly increased recently after the Warriors became the epicenter of the basketball world, winning four championships in eight years. So, he was excited to finally lay eyes in-person on the man for whom he’s often mistaken. 

Kerr even sneaked a peek at him

“I just thought he was strikingly handsome,” Kerr said at a recent Warriors practice in Los Angeles, flashing a smile. 

To Gillis’ surprise, Kerr acknowledged him at the game. 

“We had eyes quickly and then he gave me like a fist pump,” Gillis said. “…It was nice for him to be that gracious to do anything. I didn’t expect anything.”

Ironically, they have more in common than their facial features and wardrobe choices. 

Aside from both being named Steve and only being three years apart in age (Gillis is 61 while Kerr is 58), Gillis is also an avid reader who has devoted his life to coaching. 

Gillis added that his fandom of the Warriors doesn’t even have anything to do with Kerr. As a native of Spokane, Washington, he used to be a fan of the Seattle SuperSonics until they relocated to Oklahoma City in 2008. Around that time, Steph Curry won his heart when he scored 40 points to lead his Davidson team past Gonzaga in the 2008 NCAA tournament. Not to mention, Thompson starred for Washington State from 2008-2011. When the Warriors drafted them, Gillis’ new NBA allegiance was cemented. 

“This was not a newfound, yeah, I look like Kerr, I’m going to go to the game thing,” he said.  

Gillis described his first Warriors experience as magical, but what followed was also stunning. 

He made SportsCenter. Side-by-side comparisons of Gillis and Kerr were featured on the Instagram pages of ESPN and Bleacher Report. Articles sprang up all over the internet. 

Gillis said about 100 people contacted him the next day, including 25 whom he hadn’t heard from in over a year. 

“I had a dozen of my students, say, ‘Mr. Gillis, I saw you on SportsCenter!” he recalled. “I said, ‘You’re probably mixing that up with somebody else. I had a friend from New Zealand, a friend from London, friends from Brazil reach out to me. Like, wow, the power of social media. I never experienced that. I was just in awe of the reach in such a short period of time.”

Even Gillis’ family believes he’s a facsimile of Kerr. 

Gillis poses with his daughter at the game. (Photo courtesy of Steve Gillis)

Apparently, his 8-year-and 6-year-old sons watched the Warriors game at home alongside his wife, and they were confused every time they saw Kerr. 

“They go, ‘Mommy, there’s Daddy,'” Gillis said. “She said, ‘No, that’s actually Coach Kerr.’ My kids can’t tell the difference. They call me Daddy Kerr sometimes … I’m just glad this coach is a good human being.”

Gillis said his wife knows better than anyone that he’s not trying to emulate Kerr, and that their near-mirror images are a fluke. The proof?

“If you looked at pictures of me 10 years ago, my wife goes, ‘Wow, nice creativity,’ because my haircut does not change,” Gillis said. “And now my hair is graying and his is graying. I saw a comment like, ‘Is he even trying to gray his hair the same way?” Like, you can’t do that. That’s impossible. Maturity doesn’t work that way.”

For the Warriors, lookalikes are a sensitive topic. 

A Thompson impersonator was banned for life from Chase Center after he walked past multiple layers of security and shot on the court ahead of Game 5 of the 2022 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics.  

When asked for his feelings about that situation, Gillis bristled. 

“Had I remembered that, I actually would’ve been more cautious about going there because in no way would I try to take advantage of a situation,” he said. “To me, that’s overstepping a bound … I don’t find that cute, personally. That could be dangerous for the players.” 

Gillis said he has never misrepresented himself as Kerr. Though, he acknowledged that he’ll sometimes acquiesce if a fan approaches him and says, “Steve, can I take a selfie with you?” His name is Steve, after all. 

Gillis laughed recalling being at a Dick’s Sporting Goods store in Las Vegas about a year ago when he spotted legendary guitarist Carlos Santana. A few seconds later, he said a millennial asked him for a photograph. Gillis tried to do the right thing. 

“I said, ‘Do you know who you want to take a picture of? That’s Carlos Santana,'” Gillis recalled. “And he says, ‘Who is that?’ For people my age, that’s funny. I’m nobody. And here’s Carlos Santana who is great and the kid didn’t even know who that is.”

Gillis hopes to one day meet Kerr, perhaps when he’s coaching the US Men’s National Basketball Team in Las Vegas. 

He believes they’d have a lot to talk about. In fact, Gillis teaches “The Boys in the Boat” to his students, the same book Kerr was photographed reading while cradling the Larry O’Brien Trophy after winning the 2015 NBA championship. 

“I know his love of literature is something we share, which is what I’d talk to him about,” Gillis said. “Not basketball. Just, what are good reads? What has made you better as a person?”

Gillis said he often feels sheepish when people think he’s Kerr.

But he added that if he’s going to be mistaken for someone, he’s deeply glad it’s him.

“From everything I know about him, the way he carries himself, the way he’s just a tremendous communicator, and he just seems like a great leader of man,” Gillis said. “I look up to the guy.”

Melissa Rohlin is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the league for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, the Bay Area News Group and the San Antonio Express-News. Follow her on Twitter @melissarohlin.

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