NBA: Golden State Warriors at Denver Nuggets

There’s nothing to sort out. My office is always open. We did talk. It’s nothing. My only point is, let’s talk. It’s nothing. You can go to anybody in my locker room. Pick who you want, there’s enough people to cover each and every one of them and ask them how the environment is. It’s a fun time (laughs). I mean, we are 10 games over .500. Some of you guys haven’t seen that in a long, long time. So keep on acting like you have. We’re going to continue to work our tails off and continue to try to be a good basketball team and celebrate how far we’ve come and how much further we’ve got to go.

These comments — made infamous by former head coach Mark Jackson last season – actually followed a 123-80 win over the Philadelphia 76ers. As was the status quo with Jackson, the press conference rarely involved actual on-court specifics. Instead, on a night when Marreese Speights torched his former team for a career-high 32 points, the conversation reverted back to the third-year coach.

Mark Jackson

His response came as a result of his pregame spat with center Andrew Bogut, where Jackson said that his center might have injured his shoulder “sleeping, and I say that in all seriousness.” Bogut called his coach’s comments “ridiculous,” and the continued drama that surrounded Jackson grew to insurmountable levels.

Most notable from his comments that night was his hostility towards the media. What nerve did the media have to question his coaching performance? The Warriors were 31-21 following the victory, which clearly meant that no type of constructive criticism or questions should arise.

At 51-13, with a seven-game lead in the toughest Western Conference to date, his point guard in the midst of the closest MVP race in NBA history and the franchise on its way towards its best season ever, Steve Kerr has the collective support to install another culture change, one that has a Larry O’Brien trophy in sight.

That’s not to say that with a healthy David Lee two seasons ago and a healthy Andrew Bogut last season the Warriors couldn’t have advanced to the NBA Finals, but there were clear flaws in the way Jackson ran his system. Besides the obvious on-court miscues – isolation plays, timeouts, rotations – Jackson’s culture didn’t allow for outside influence, instead promoting a combative culture that wasn’t fit for universal progression.

A healthy David Lee would never have notched DNPs under the previous regime, but given Kerr, his coaching staff and the confidence that management has in them, Lee has accepted the move and it has worked to everyone’s benefit. Moving big money players such as Lee ($15 million) or Andre Iguodala ($12.3 million) to the bench couldn’t have happened in previous seasons because the coach’s stubbornness wouldn’t have allowed it.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Golden State Warriors

Kerr’s moves have allowed Harrison Barnes to become useful once again, freed Draymond Green to become the Defensive Player of the Year candidate that he’s become and solidified a suddenly sound second-unit. The team is put first, not the coach, with Kerr’s self-deprecating style and any sense of pride put aside. Kerr has earned something that Jackson lost in his final days: the trust that this franchise is being put in the best position to succeed.

There is no me or I under this command. Kerr, Alvin Gentry and Ron Adams combine to form one of the best – and highest earning – coaching staffs in the league. Ownership, management, the staff and players are all acting in unison, which in turn is providing the best success this franchise has ever seen. Besides the aforementioned Lee, each returning player is having an equally impressive or better season, and the new pieces in place are rounding out what was already one of the best units in the league.

In the next coming games, expect Kerr to rest key players in preparation for a deep playoff run. Starting in Denver on Friday night, the Warriors have built up a large enough lead to permit such days off. Curry and Thompson are coming off a busy summer, helping Team USA win gold in the FIBA Basketball World Cup. Bogut, Iguodala and even Shaun Livingston are deserving of such days off given their tenure in the league.

No one doubts the improvements Jackson made in his three seasons. Curry evolved into an elite guard, Thompson became a consistent two-way threat and Draymond Green became Draymond Green. But the limitations this franchise had were evident, both on and off the floor. It’s been 64 games, but as the season progresses the move to fire Jackson has proven to be an increasingly sensible decision.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Philadelphia 76ers

It’s not just evaluating his performance as a coach where we can see this. When the Cleveland Cavaliers came to Oracle Arena in January with Jackson on the call, the former coach once again made it known why he’s no longer at the helm. “To me, a rim protector is overrated in this league,” said Jackson. While not-so- subtlety throwing shade at his former center, he also clamored for DeAndre Jordan, a rim-protecting center, to win defensive player of the year.

That same game, Jackson, while “praising” Kerr stated, “He deserves a lot of credit. And I think while giving him credit, there’s no reason to take credit away from the past. You cannot disrespect the caterpillar, while raving about the butterfly.” This past Sunday, Jackson asserted the Curry shouldn’t be compared to Steve Nash because he doesn’t make his teammates better like Nash did.

This is the new era, brought about by another culture change in what Joe Lacob hopes to become the staple for his franchise. Many questioned the move, but following his decisions and the success under Kerr, all doubt has been eliminated. Still, there’s work to be done. Jackson preached culture change, but as we’re seeing now with the organization – at 38 games over .500 – real change comes in the form of one unifying voice, not defiance.

“This is not the old culture. This is a new culture,” said Jackson that same night against Philadelphia. Luckily for the Warriors, that culture was in important stepping stone to a better one. .

2 Responses

  1. Greg438

    I think this is a great and focused article — and substantively spot on. I could wax on philosophically about how your point about “culture change” really highlights the principle that organizations often need different types of leadership at different stages but you logically nailed the salient points:

    1. MJ’s immaturity at managing (“immaturity being different than “experience”) rendered him unable to implement the changes necessary to take the team to this level and;

    2. His recent, often conflicting, comments really just highlight a continued professional immaturity; I can’t imagine why he would think those comments would incent another owner or GM to hire him.

  2. Alex

    This article is basically just an excuse to bash on Mark Jackson. Please change the title to “Why the Mark Jackson Firing was Justified” or talk about what actual specifics are signs of a culture change and what Kerr et. al has actually done to implement a change of culture. You’re writing needs a deeper analysis of the subject (Warriors, Kerr, and culture) and less talk of what Mark Jackson has been saying lately.