January 22, 2016 / 8:09 PM / 2 years ago

Warriors coach Kerr returning after rehab

Jun 19, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Head coach Steve Kerr waves to the crowd during the Golden State Warriors 2015 championship celebration in downtown Oakland. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr is back on the bench for the first time this season, ending a long leave of absence to steer the defending champions against the Indiana Pacers on Friday, the team said.

Kerr began his leave on Oct. 1 to focus on recovering from a pair of off-season back operations after leading the Warriors to a franchise-record 67 regular-season wins and the team's first NBA title in 40 years.

A veteran of 15 NBA campaigns as a player, the 50-year-old underwent surgery to repair a ruptured disc in July and had a follow-up procedure in September.

With assistant coach Luke Walton taking over, the Warriors did not miss a beat and own the league's best record at 39-4.

Golden State's record equals the second best mark through 43 games in NBA history, trailing only the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls with Michael Jordan at 40-3.

Walton was named coach of the month in November as the Warriors began the campaign with 24 consecutive victories, the most ever to start a season in U.S. professional team sports.

Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Tony Jimenez

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