“Mama there goes that man,” “hand down, man down,” or whatever other Mark Jackson-ism we haven’t used yet, it doesn’t matter. The point is: it’s a new era for the Golden State Warriors and the league has another coaching vacancy.
After three years as head coach of the Warriors, Mark Jackson was officially fired Tuesday following a season of tension with the team’s front office. Despite winning 51 games this year and presiding over Golden State’s most successful back-to-back seasons in more than two decades, Jackson’s clashes with Warriors owner Joe Lacob, particularly over the demotion of assistant coach Brian Scalabrine and the removal of assistant coach Darren Erman, ultimately clouded the team’s accomplishments with constant distractions and drama.
When the Warriors failed to improve their playoff seed from 2012-13 and fell to the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round, Jackson’s fate, unfair or not, was all but assured. It would’ve most likely taken a Western Conference Finals appearance for Golden State’s embattled coach to secure his job for another year, despite the fact that Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bogut and David Lee missed a combined 47 games.
That’ll teach Mark Jackson to win 51 games, get a soft team to defend & lose a Game 7 to the higher seeded Clippers without Bogut available
— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) May 6, 2014
Jackson supporters are right to point to those frequent injuries (as well as Bogut’s absence in the playoffs against a superior Clippers team) as the reason the Dubs fell short of expectations this season, but tensions behind the scenes had reached an all-time high. It wasn’t just the Warriors’ first-round exit that led to Jackson’s termination. We’re talking about a coach who won 47 games and 51 games in the two seasons where he had a healthy Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Andrew Bogut. Rather, it was the off-court circus show that ultimately got him fired.
When Jackson didn’t receive the contract extension he desired, it gave way to an insecure and brash coach who successfully managed to antagonize most of the organization with the exception of the players, who bought in to Jackson’s motivational coaching techniques and his “Us against the world!” mentality. No one can deny Jackson got the most out of his younger players, especially in a playoff series without his best defensive player, but those crying foul on the nature of his departure need to at least understand why it came to pass.
Don’t have a problem with thinking Warriors made a bad decision with Jackson. Have a problem with this phrasing that turns him into a victim
— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) May 6, 2014
That being said, I’ve covered at length why letting Mark Jackson go could prove to be a mistake for the Warriors. The lack of offensive creativity, the frustrating devotion to running too many iso sets and post ups and the frequent avoidance of Golden State’s successful small-ball lineups should give Warriors fans plenty of reasons to be excited about this team’s offensive potential under a new coach, but we should also point out that the Warriors were an elite defense (fourth in defensive rating) under Jackson.
We should also remember that there’s something to be said for a coach who has the full support of his locker room, even if he may have strayed into propaganda territory at times to keep it. But Steph Curry was pretty vocal about his support for Jackson and with so many expectations surrounding this team, there’s a ton of pressure on the Warriors to find the right replacement NOW. With an already upset Curry set to become a free agent three seasons from now, it is of the utmost importance that Golden State not only hires someone Curry will respect, but someone who can actually improve on the foundation Jackson laid out. Here are the three best candidates for the job, including one honorable mention who keeps popping up.