The Golden State Warriors' failure to improve upon last season's breakout performance has made head coach Mark Jackson a marked man, much to the chagrin of his backup center.
The San Jose Mercury News' Diamond Leung reports that, "veteran big man Jermaine O'Neal called any talk of firing coach Mark Jackson 'ridiculous' and 'unfair'."
Per Leung, O'Neal cited Jackson as "the No. 1 reason that I will come back and play another year."
That's uncompromising talk from someone in the know, and it comes at a timely juncture. Jackson's decision to demote assistant coach Brian Scalabrine was accompanied by a report from Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski that called the head coach's job security into question, saying Jackson had, "come under increased scrutiny within the organization for how he has run the team and worked on the job."
Even more concretely, Wojnarowski claimed, according to sources, that no "conversations about an extension" were planned anytime soon, leaving Jackson's future with the organization an open and increasingly discussed question.
Some of the intrigue originated in February when co-owner Joe Lacob only offered a compromised endorsement of Jackson's performance (per the Mercury News' Tim Kawakami):
I do think our coach has done a good job—we have had some big wins, a lot of wins on the road, and that’s usually a sign of good coaching. But some things are a little disturbing–the lack of being up for some of these games at home, that’s a concern to me.
But Jackson certainly isn't without his supporters. Besides O'Neal, the face of the franchise, Stephen Curry, said he loved Jackson and "everything he’s about," according to the Mercury News' Marcus Thompson. Those are two important endorsements—one from a veteran who's been around the league and the other from a certified superstar in the making.
As is often the case, Jackson's future will likely depend on the same bottom line that governs most coaches' fates. Bleacher Report's Josh Martin argued that these "apparent problems will only matter if they're not accompanied by wins, wins and more wins."
Especially wins in the postseason.
The Warriors made noise as a sixth seed last season, and they could well do so again this time around. Another first-round upset should ensure Jackson another chance to prove himself—at least to those who don't think he's already done so.