3×3: The Highs and Lows of Mark Jackson
1) High point of Mark Jackson’s tenure with the Warriors?
Sam Esfandiari: The December 2012 road trip highlighted by a win in Miami. Picking the playoff upset of Denver seems like the obvious choice, but that road trip was really the point that the league took notice of the Golden State Warriors. The more casual bay area fans started to get excited about the Warriors again. By January, Oracle started to take life it hadn’t seen since the “We Believe teams”.
Jarrett Jack became a fan favorite, Stephen Curry was finally being seen as the star we all knew he could be, David Lee was playing his best basketball in a Warriors uniform and so on. There was so much optimism about Jackson and this team at that point. There were no real critics, and for one of the few moments in the last 20 years, the Warriors seemed drama free.
Danny Leroux: May 8, 2013. After one of the most crushing single game collapses I can recall (Game One against the Spurs), the Warriors come out with a dominant performance in San Antonio, taking a nineteen point lead to halftime and cruising to a nine point win. Getting to the second round was certainly an accomplishment but playing incredibly well for seven quarters in San Antonio gave this team the confidence that they could hang with anyone on even the largest stages, a belief only strengthened by the Spurs getting within a cruel twist of fate from winning the title a month later. On top of all that, the game exemplified Jackson’s strength of building the young core of the team since it was rookies Barnes, Green, and Ezeli along with Klay and Steph that picked up the slack from David Lee’s injury.
J.M. Poulard: The 2014 playoffs. An argument could be made that Jackson’s entire tenure in Golden State was a high point because he changed the culture of the organization. Under his watch, the Warriors became an attractive franchise that could potentially make the Western Conference Finals.
With that said, if I have to pick one lone instance, it’s the seven-game series against the Los Angeles Clippers. The Warriors were underdogs because of Andrew Bogut’s absence (rib injury), and yet, the Dubs competed and nearly pulled off the upset. One can haggle over Jackson’s methods, but certainly not his results.
2) Low point of Mark Jackson’s tenure with the Warriors?
Sam Esfandiari: From the Scalabrine demotion till the end of the 2013/2014 regular season. Things just got weirder and weirder. Warriors turned into a daytime television style soap opera. By the time Erman was fired, it was an all out mess. They became more and more painful to watch with home losses to Cleveland and the New York Knicks in the midst of a playoff positioning battle (which they ultimately lost).
The insecurity and posturing from Jackson, the cry outs of support from the players, the obvious silence from upper management, made it downright woeful to be a Warriors fan. Every conversation turned into “Keep/Fire Jackson!” debate instead of focusing on what is happening on the court. Talk radio banter was unbearable and on and on.
Jackson did some great things for the Warriors over his three years, but by the time he was let go, I just breathed a sigh of relief to be done with those tiring discussions.
Danny Leroux: June 28, 2012 (or thereabouts). Mark Jackson’s strength as a coach came from his ability to be a leader of men. Part of what made him so popular among the Warriors players was his ability to speak passionately from a position of moral authority both as a pastor and as a successful basketball player. In late June of 2012, the story broke that Jackson was the target of an extortion scheme by a former stripper he had an affair with six years before. That one revelation eroded his moral arguments since Jackson had been married for 22 years at the time of the extortion and obviously knew of the double standard he was applying the whole time he coached the Warriors while also putting the first big crack in his relationship with ownership.
J.M. Poulard: Scandal. Although it never seemingly affected the team, Jackson’s infidelity could have completely sidetracked the Warriors. A man known for betraying the “rules” established by his strong religious beliefs could have created the perception that he doesn’t live by the words he spews, and the team might have faltered when faced with this dilemma.
To Jackson’s credit, that personal challenge never became an obstacle for the Warriors.
3) Will Mark Jackson be an NBA Head Coach within the next three years?
Sam Esfandiari: No. I think the stigma around him is toxic enough that it’ll take more than three years to pass. Half the league has changed ownership in last decade. Most of the newer ownership groups are taking a model like Golden State, with hands on ownership, upper management, analytics etc. Whether true or not, the prevailing thought is Jackson didn’t get along with his owner and management. I can’t see any of those groups taking a chance on Jackson. There are teams who might value his unique ability to inspire and lead players but they are fewer and far between relative to ones who prefer a man who can work with management.
But more than that, there simply aren’t a lot of coaching vacancies and Jackson has a job he likes, so he won’t just jump into a position for the sake of it. Jackson is only going to leave his position at ESPN if an opportunity he likes arises. Something like Chicago or New York or Miami for example. Attractive markets to live in with either a solid talent base or a market capable of bringing it. All teams who meet that criteria are committed at the helm.
Danny Leroux: If he wants to be a head coach, there will be a job for him. At this point, Mark Jackson has a niche similar to Jon Gruden in football- a popular figure in the league who is also incredibly famous with enough of a resume as a coach to justify being hired. While Jackson has more baggage than other guys who could jump back to the sideline from the booth, we know he interviews incredibly well and that the players loved him.
That said, I do not expect to see him as a NBA head coach in the next three years. From what I could tell, Jackson loved being around basketball more than being a coach. That makes sense- coaching in the NBA is a brutal grind with pressure from all sides. Jackson has the benefit of a fallback option that pays him well, keeps him involved with the sport he loves, and carries substantially less of a mental strain. While Jackson getting the itch and coming back would not surprise me, it does not appear to be the most likely outcome in the next few seasons.
J.M. Poulard: Most definitely. There are too many bad teams in the league with players not able to fulfill their potential. Jackson might very well be a Confidence Doctor because of how he speaks to his team and also the manner in which he refers to his players.
I’d love to see him get a crack at guys like DeMarcus Cousins, Lance Stephenson and John Wall to name a few. Young guys tend to flourish under Jackson, and a general manager will recognize that and give him a shot.