Though hopes are high and the future is bright for the Golden State Warriors, there are still questions looming about how long it should take before we finally see this team blossom into a true contender.
It's important to note that the Warriors have had a serious playoff drought, with only one appearance in the past 18 seasons. Also important is that this franchise is notorious for short-lived coaching tenures. After Don Nelson's first seven-year tenure with the Warriors in 1988-1995, no coach lasted more than two seasons until Nelson came back for another four-year run in 2006.
Needless to say, the Warriors' organization has certainly been looking for someone other than Nelson to be their guiding light back into postseason glory.
After a near-respectable 36-win season two years ago, former Warriors head coach Keith Smart seemed primed to have another shot in a full, non-interim season.
However, Golden State went a different direction and decided to hire a coach outside of their own staff. The man they selected was former NBA Rookie of the Year, Mark Jackson.
After being hired in 2011, Jackson knew he had some work to do if he wanted to right the ship in Oakland.
Though it was a turbulent first season for him, going just 23-43, the team has made strides in terms of talent on the roster during Jackson's young coaching career. The acquisition of Andrew Bogut along with the strong draft class for the Warriors has solidified a good core in Oakland that could make for the best Golden State team in years.
However, with such high hope for a turnaround, there come consequences for those involved. Often the first target when a team's high hopes get sunk is the man steering the ship. In this case, that would be Mark Jackson.
Now I know that he's only had a season to get his feet wet in coaching and that he had to endure injuries and a very young roster, but Jackson is still vulnerable. You could even argue that his seat is hotter now with a bright future and good core than it would be without talent in place.
The Warriors want to win, and they want to see results from the team that all this hype is building up around. It's a young team, and it may take a couple seasons to fully blossom into their peak form. But if the front office doesn't start seeing improvement right away, they may have to look to make changes.
Though he may be on the hot seat already, Jackson has shown thus far that he isn't necessarily a bad coach. Being on the hot seat has more to do with the situation and expectations surrounding him rather than just his performance from one lockout-shortened season.
His 23 wins last year are just a small sample of what Jackson was like as a coach. Though there are areas where Jackson may need to improve, such as drawing up effective plays on his own instead of relying on his assistant coaching staff, such speed bumps are expected for a first-year coach who came into a rough situation.
Without a real training camp to work with and with several roster moves during the season, it's fair to say Jackson handled it all pretty well. However, his free passes will soon run out if the team continues to underperform. The reasons for losing games will turn into excuses, and then those excuses will turn into reasons to look elsewhere for a head coach.
One of the most important things Jackson needs to do in order to retain his job is to win the players over. On a young roster, it's important to have a personal connection with your players to gain their trust. Once you have their trust, they are much more willing to work hard for you and to fight for you on the court. It also builds a lot of valuable chemistry within the team when all 12 guys are enthusiastic about uniting under one common leader.
In addition to gaining the trust of his players, Jackson must also be able to earn their respect. That will be key in building an effective relationship that will translate not only on the court but off it, where there is much trouble to be had for the life of an NBA player.
There's definitely work to be done in Oakland for Jackson and his players in order to turn this franchise into a winning team again. The fans and the front office will all be watching the Warriors closely this next season to see if their seeds will be growing and blossoming.
Hopefully Mark Jackson will be able to keep his cool, even in his hot seat.
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