When a Leader Isn’t a Coach
I have had some time to reflect on the fate of Mark Jackson, because we’ve seen this coming for months now. My glut of late season home game tickets allowed me to be present for such epic failures as the loss to the hapless Knicks as well as Cleveland and Charlotte. All were teams that in a competitive Western Conference, at home, the Warriors should have had the focus and the plan to put them away, or at least 2 out of 3. Combine that with a reasonable view of Joe Lacob during games executing on multiple single, double and occasionally, with the help of the folks sitting beside him, rare triple face palms, it was clear that there was some frustration on the part of ownership. Mark Jackson’s performance wasn’t something that should come as a surprise to anyone because he wasn’t hired to be a game coach.
If you are a frequent reader of the Warriorsworld Forums then his firing will come as no surprise. The entire season has been filled with displeasure around his;
- Hockey style line change substitutions
- Frequent ISO plays best exemplified by their loss in the final game
- Failure to call time outs when the opposing team is on a run, the anti-Popovich
- Lack of a clear offensive scheme, especially late in games
Go back to the beginning, the Warriors are a franchise that, outside of the We Believe team, had been mired in failure for the entirety of Chris Cohan’s ownership. Multiple head coaches, (11 in 20 years) blown draft picks (Joe Smith), poor player management (Chris Webber, Latrell Chokewell), and a complete lack of respect for the fan base (Robert Rowell, Chris Cohan). The Warriors were not even on the national sports radar unless it was to cover another miss step or train wreck. If you have a company, an asset, a business, a sports franchise with such a track record of failure and a toxic culture you have to turn it around before you can really start to build. It can start with expectations, outside interest and validation, respect, bold moves even if they may not actually generate long term results (See Yahoo).
Hiring Mark Jackson solved many of the Warriors perception and national media problems right off the bat. It didn’t matter if he didn’t have experience coaching, or putting together a staff, or diagraming a play. He immediately put the Warriors on the map with a former broadcaster who’s friends in the media would immediately rally to his side. The Warriors expressed excitement over the credibility and leadership he would bring to the organization. Jerry West was excited because they got the tandem of Jackson and Malone to help build out a staff of coaches with experience that could support the new coach.
Jackson was brought in to dramatically change the culture and perception of the Warriors, and he did. The work he was brought in to do was completed, and sometimes the person you bring in to right the ship isn’t the same person you have sailing the ship. I’ve been in this same position, if you aren’t open to feedback (Erman, Scal, West), if you don’t manage up effectively (Lacob, the guy that sometimes sits next to Lacob at games) or sideways (Kirk Lacob) then you have no support and no growth path. You came in as the hammer needed for the nail but not every problem is a nail and the only tool you developed are additional hammers. Mark Jackson was let go because he didn’t grow into the coaching role and didn’t build a staff around him to provide the coaching needed for the Warriors to reach their potential.
Movie speeches, inspirational quotes and faith got this team as far as it could go without coaching, but with all of the talent on this team, they need a coach as much as a leader. Hopefully they can find both or else the Warriors will be in the same place next year but for different reasons, they might win more at home, do a better job of beating bad teams but they won’t go on the road and beat Miami, Memphis, Indiana and Portland or take a good Clippers team to the brink without their best interior defender. You want leadership and execution, either alone isn’t going to get you to a championship.