Mark Jackson could be coaching the Golden State Warriors for the final time tonight.
That is, if the Warriors lose Game 6 to the Los Angeles Clippers, capping off an unpredictably crazy playoff series both on and off the court. All the talk this past week has been focused on Donald Sterling — as it should be — but on the other side, Jackson’s future with the Warriors could be in serious jeopardy if they lose.
To understand why, look no further than Brian Scalabrine and Darren Erman, the two assistant coaches who were let go this season. Scalabrine reportedly clashed with Jackson, not speaking with him for weeks at a time. Next, there was Erman, who was fired recently for secretly tape recording conversations between the coaching staff. This, too might have been a rebellion against Jackson. Grantland reported that the Warriors started “changing Erman’s duties” in various ways and tension began to build between Erman and the rest of the staff.
Scalabrine was reassigned to the D-League, and Erman was let go. Just based on this alone, one can tell that Jackson has a big ego. Both these coaches probably offered opinions that Jackson resented, resulting in the assistants getting frustrated. It is still unknown why Erman chose to secretly record conversations, but a person only does such a thing when he is discontent.
Want more about Jackson’s ego? How about the fact that he never lets his assistants speak on the record to the media? Or how he, according to Grantland, did not want NBA legend Jerry West, an adviser to the team, hanging around the practice facility? The San Jose Mercury News reports that Jackson would “roll his eyes” at West giving advice to players because “all basketball instruction should come from the coaches.” I don’t know about you, but when Jerry freakin’ West shows up and wants to help your team, you listen, because West has accomplished things that Jackson could only dream of at this stage.
But we can also look at things from Jackson’s angle: he is the head coach of the team, and can do whatever he thinks is best. In a few short years, he’s definitely changed the culture of the Warriors from a perennial bottom-feeder to a playoff team. He’s built up a defensive identity, a total 180-degree reversal from the Don Nelson days. The Warriors won 51 games this season, the most in two decades. They have a superstar in the making in Stephen Curry, a prized free agent acquisition in Andre Iguodala, a sharpshooter in Klay Thompson with sky-high potential, and a defensive anchor in Andrew Bogut. All of this would not have been possible before Jackson’s arrival.
Ultimately, however, we all want more. The fans want more, the front office wants more, and most importantly, the owner wants more. There’s no question that Joe Lacob is an ambitious, reach-for-the-sky type of owner, and one can argue that he is too ambitious. He wants improvement, he wants championships, he wants it all. In interviews this season, he hasn’t exactly been completely complimentary toward his head coach, who he hired three years ago. That’s why a first round exit to the Clippers would simply not do it. Despite the 51 wins, back-to-back playoff appearances, and more national spotlight than ever before, the Warriors (and Jackson) will be judged upon postseason performance, and getting sent home in Round 1 is essentially a big, red sign flashing across Jackson’s forehead displaying the words, “Fire Me.”
Grantland reports that “the consensus around the league is that Jackson is very unlikely to return next season, barring a longer-than-expected playoff run from the Warriors.”
That would be my consensus as well. His future has to be decided this offseason, because he only has one year left on his contract, and there’s no way he’d come back under a lame-duck status. So unless Jackson somehow coaches his team to two straight wins against the Clippers — and I would even argue he needs to get to the Conference Finals — the Warriors will be in a market for a new coach pretty soon.
Tags: Mark Jackson