Mark Jackson & Jerry West: The Fame Game
I did not watch Jerry West’s games from a high chair, but journalists of a particular generation seem captivated by him. They likely aren’t alone. I would hazard that many owners, executives and agents feel similarly. That is important, abstract as its impact might be. Though I did not see wisdom in the hiring of a septuagenarian Jerry West, it makes more sense now: Lacob is trying to change the paradigm, give the Warriors a new sheen within and outside the basketball community.
How does Mark Jackson figure into this re-framing? Simply put, he’s a celebrity, a face. I mean that as factual, not pejorative. If Jackson walks down the street, people call out catch phrases. If Keith Smart walks down the street…Keith Smart walks down the street. The new coach lacks Jerry West’s gravitas, but he does generate some interest in a franchise often, deservedly ignored by the Northeast corridor. Jackson–who announced that as a child, he used to watch West play–gives the Warriors some cachet.
We’ve long criticized GSW HQ for choosing style over substance, but in this instance the style is at least weightier. In the past, it felt as though the Warriors were sprinkling glitter on a dead dog. Today, Rowell’s crew is at least hyping an organization that people (famous people!) consider joining. Pathetically, this is a dramatic shift and a positive change worth noting.
The Mark Jackson hire got considerable coverage, as basketball writers across the nation debated its merits. People in far flung locations have opinions about the guy who calls the NBA Finals. Kelly Dwyer wrote a piece on how Jackson’s conventional-wisdom announcing casts concerns over his future coaching acumen. Dwyer is not alone in thinking this, so I asked Mark Jackson if we could glean any insight about his coaching from those broadcasts:
“There will be no play called ‘mama there goes that man. There will be no defense called, hand down man down.’”
Damn, that’s almost a shame.
Jackson stands tall, talks tall. If he fails, his confident quotes will be continually brought back to stoke laughter, like a sitcom in syndication. Early in the presser, he bellowed, “I was a leader when my mom gave birth to me,” a boast I couldn’t pull off in job interviews without laughing myself into a fetal position. Perhaps the new dynamism will lead to wins. And perhaps pride goeth before another fall. Today, Jackson is a huge, vocal presence in an organization seeking to mean something different for once.
I asked Jackson if he would play Curry more than the 33 minutes per game Keith Smart doled out. The coach was non-committal:
“We will look into it. Steph Curry is an outstanding basketball player, and if he defends, he will be on the court”
Mark Jackson preaches defense, but does he like this defensive roster?
MJ: “I think he’s a heck of a young player. And it’s going to be interesting. He’s going to have every opportunity, to put himself in position, to definitely be a player that’s in the rotation.”
As a secular quasi-Jew, I’m fascinated by the role religion plays in the lives of those who carry that faith I lack. I wanted to know if religion influences Jackson’s decision-making:
ESS: “Does your immense religious faith in any way inform who you are as a coach and a leader?”
MJ: “Absolutely. Absolutely. There’s no question about it. Who I am, first and foremost, is a man of God. That’s first. That’s before anything. I take pride in that. There’s a reason why I’m able to keep everything in perspective, and be successful is because, I truly believe that and I act accordingly.”