In Firing Mark Jackson, Joe Lacob Takes Another Big Risk


Joe Lacob has a huge ego and an almost over-zealous passion, which hasn’t exactly made him popular amongst the Golden State Warriors’ fan base. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Lacob has a huge ego and an almost over-zealous passion, which hasn’t exactly made him popular among the Golden State Warriors’ fanbase.

Think back to when he pulled the trigger on the deal that sent fan-favorite Monta Ellis to the Bucks in 2012 for an oft-injured Andrew Bogut. Shortly afterwards, he pompously strode out to midcourt during Chris Mullin’s jersey retirement ceremony, and was promptly greeted by a chorus of boos from he crowd.

Now, Lacob is at it again. With the firing of coach Mark Jackson announced earlier today, the Warriors are getting rid of the man who has led the most successful era of Warriors’ history in the past two decades. But evidently, back-to-back playoff appearances, a 50-win season, and a return to relevancy wasn’t enough to keep Jackson safe from Lacob’s ego.

In Lacob’s defense, the reasons for Jackson’s firing run far beyond the results on the court. Jackson essentially alienated himself with the entire front office so much that not one person in management vouched for him to keep his job. The news also came out today that he had a supposed spat with assistant GM Kirk Lacob (yes, the owner’s son) and ordered him not to speak with his assistants. Speaking of assistants, the decisions to let Brian Scalabrine and Darren Erman go were eerie foreshadowings to Jackson’s future. When top assistant Michael Malone bolted for the Kings’ job during the offseason, the front office implored Jackson to find a worthy replacement who could help with playcalling. Jackson didn’t, instead promoting yes man Pete Myers to the lead assistant position and hiring the inexperienced Scalabrine and Lindsey Hunter.

Even given the disputes between Jackson and his co-workers, Lacob probably knew that firing Jackson would lead to an uproar from the fans. After all, you don’t fire the coach who helped turn your franchise from perennial bottom-dweller to 50-win team without some kind of backlash. The same goes for the national media and NBA fans who haven’t followed the Warriors as closely. Nationally, the Warriors are known as everyone’s second favorite team to watch, other than their own. Their loose, run-and-gun style of play and the evolution of Stephen Curry into a superstar has sensationalized the Warriors around the country. So why on earth would they fire the coach?

Before trading Ellis, Lacob had already taken a risk by hiring Jackson. Everyone scoffed at it — a player-turned-broadcaster with no prior coaching experience at any level? This was the coach who would lead the Warriors to glory, to relevance?

Lo and behold, Jackson did just that. The Warriors are now relevant. They are a legitimate basketball team, and ultimately, Lacob’s gamble on Jackson did pay off.

But Lacob wants more. He paid a heap of money for the Warriors, turned them into a contender, and has an ego the size of North America. He wants a championship, and much like he believes Ellis wasn’t the superstar who would lead the Warriors to glory, he believes that Jackson is not the person who will take him to the promised land.

Only time will tell if Lacob’s risk will pay off.