Mark Jackson likes to move. Perhaps this is why he’s away from a studio, away from the announcer’s chair. The game compels him to bounce up and down the sideline as though invisible giants are volleying him about with tennis rackets. Wait, did I say “racket” when I meant “racquet”? Anyway, that reminds of just how much yelling Mark Jackson does as he patrols his area. If coaches do this in spurts, Jackson’s scream routine is a river.
I was transfixed by this during Golden State’s resounding win on Thursday night. Jackson–and occasionally assistant coach Mike Malone–were shouting into the fray like highly leveraged boxing fans. What is being communicated here, and why so loud?
ESS: You tend to stand and communicate with the team a lot, a lot more so than the average coach, and tonight was no exception. Is most of that communication functional as to what plays to run, or is most of that communication motivational in nature?
Mark Jackson: Well, my goal from day one is not to be an average coach. I don’t go with what the norm is. When I’m in church I stand up the whole time. So I guess I’m accustomed to it. When I communicate with my guys, it’s really, something I just saw, reminding them of something, giving them a heads up. I’m not a coach that’s going to be calling every play. In an ideal world, I’m just standing up there cuz’ I gotta’ good seat. I prepare them for the moment. I trust my players to get quality offense, and make the proper adjustments on the floor so it’s probably just like I said. I stand up in church the whole time and I’m comfortable that way.
So there it is, the conversion of church communication to court communication. Jackson often speaks in terms of “energy,” not having enough of it, or having the right amount. From the outside, it seems as though he’s trying to imbue his team with this force, to blow ardently on the golf ball as it nears the pin.
Coaching is a broad profession. It’s lineups, subs, development, PR, playbook strategy. It’s also motivation, supposedly. Except, most successful NBA coaches wear the strained facial expression of a fishhooked bass. The road life, the pressure, whatever it is, it often turns these men into sallow, depressive cynics. Enthusiasm occasionally makes an appearance, but like a D-League call-up, it’s often quickly banished to oblivion.
Mark Jackson wants to be different kind of coach, but it is difficult to maintain as motivator while keeping so many hours, in so many cities, with so many emotional swings. The Warriors are currently a playoff longshot, even with these last two victories. Considering the circumstances, I wonder if Jackson’s greatest challenge will be to maintain his verve against great challenges. I also wonder if this verve can be a factor in overcoming great challenges.
At season’s end, will Mark Jackson still be standing? Can standing help deliver?