The Mark Jackson meet-and-greet buzzed as Lacob, Guber, Riley, and Myers worked the spacious conference room. Expensive black suits floated above trays of technicolor hor d’oeuvres, while over a billion in net worth mingled. Jerry West hung back, because he didn’t really need to move. Throngs flocked to the legend. 

I’m reminded of how, on Marc Maron’s comedy podcast, Conan O’Brien claimed to rarely get starstruck. The only times he felt awed were those rare occasions when O’Brien interviewed much older stars, the ones he watched as a little boy. To paraphrase, it is often humbling to interact with a person you saw on TV from a high chair–back before you were even sentient. Powerful men can stutter when speaking to figures they always recognized as owning fame. 

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.

Quote Notes:

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?

ESS: “Do you think the Warriors have worse defensive personnel than an average team?”
MJ: “No. You look at the teams that’s still playing, they’re more than capable of defending. The problem is, I don’t know what was emphasized.”

Thought it was a little strange to see Jeremy Lin at the presser. So I inquired after it:
ESS: “Jeremy Lin’s here, do you see him as a rotation player going forward?”

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.”

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3 Responses

  1. Eric B

    I don’t like Marc Jackson. I don’t appreciate his basketball knowledge or general intelligence, or his silly catchphrases. He always sounds like the guy who’s trying to sound witty but just can’t pull it off, never mind actually say things that mean something. But he might just have the charisma and tenacity to get his players to play hard, and if he leaves the X’s and O’s to his assistants (and if they’re good) this might just be a quality hire for the W’s. I’d sure as hell prefer them to swing for the fences and gamble on an unknown quantity such as Jackson than go for someone like Dwayne Casey or Brian Shaw, who for all their competence as basketball coaches will probably not gel this team into a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

  2. Daddydom

    It does sound very similar to Singletary but hopefully he will have a better set of soldiers to work with. I know he is talking about sitting guys that are me first. With that mentality they will stay the same losers as before. Like other coaches Jackson is looking to change the losing attitude. I hope we keep the core players(Monta, Curry, Lee, Wright, Uhdo, Thornton, and Williams) Then add to this core more talent at the center, point positions. I think we need to bring in 2 centers 1 big body and 1 tall and fast. We need the second point to be a bigger defender to run the second offense. All of the other good teams go 10 deep with talent and have 3 stars. We need 1 more proven star or up and coming. A great coach could have gotten at least 9 more wins out of this team last year. Everytime they got to the point of getting over the hump they backed down and Smart did nothing about it.

  3. GSWFaithful

    I think what everyone wants to know is can he make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. After all years of “what defense?” and Keith Smart’s similar promise of improving defense, can the Warrior Faithful really expect improvement by an unproven coach. While I would not call Warrior defenders “dead dogs” I would say some (or most) of these dogs just don’t hunt. Jackson promises that the pacifists will be exposed and benched. But will he be able to rid the vodka and cigarettes from the locker room? Will he extinguish the “I did my job and got you 25 points, but I can’t do it alone” mentality? I am sure he will be able to see and say what’s wrong but he be able to teach the old dogs new tricks? More importantly, will the front office be able to deliver some big bad rottweilers, pit bulls and great danes which are requisite to making the Warriors a defense first team?
    And being a fan of more than one Bay Area team, there one nagging similarity about Mark Jackson. He’s a lot like Mike Singletary. Huge ego, huge personality, charismatic, never been a head coach and dare I say it, he’s very religious. The striking difference however, is that (with all due respect to Sing whose strength was passion over IQ), Mark Jackson is articulate and intelligent. And being very religious is not (necessarily) a bad thing. It does tell us this guy has strong values and we know where exactly his morals are. Just pray he’s not walking the sidelines with a six inch crucifix dangling from his neck.
    So as Warrior loyalist who’s heard it all before from a long line of new head coaches, I have to say this time is different. Without separating emotion and hope from rational thinking, I want to believe and do. This is the next great coach with the best owners in professional sports with the best front office (right?) to match the greatest fans in the NBA