5 Coaches Who Could Fit with Golden State Warriors Better Than Mark Jackson
The Golden State Warriors are a very good team, but given all the talent on the roster, it's fair to say that head coach Mark Jackson hasn't quite tapped the team's full potential yet.
With that in mind, it makes sense that Jackson may be on the hot seat if this loaded roster fails to have any substantial playoff success. Jackson and the Warriors set the bar last year by reaching the second round in the playoffs, and a failure to do that once again could be bad news for Jackson's future.
Here's San Jose Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami with more:
'That's not my call,' Jackson said when I asked him if a first-round loss this season should be considered a step backward.
Jackson then pointed to the depth of the Western Conference and said that there will be many good teams with good coaches who won't make it past the first round this year.
Meanwhile, team sources salute the locker-room attitude, but they point to some problems with Jackson's game management.
While it seems unlikely that the Warriors would look for an upgrade barring a massive collapse, there will be potential upgrades out there who should be able to get more out of an offense that's ranked just 12th in efficiency this year, per Basketball-Reference.com.
Excluding candidates who are unlikely to return (Jeff and Stan Van Gundy), retired (Jerry Sloan) or working elsewhere (Larry Brown, Phil Jackson), here are five coaches who could be a better fit with the Golden State Warriors than Mark Jackson.
Would hiring George Karl be a little difficult to justify? Perhaps. After all, it was Jackson's Warriors that upset Karl's Denver Nuggets in last year's playoffs, which ultimately contributed heavily to his firing.
Still, once you move past a short playoff series, Karl is the most accomplished head coach available and is just two seasons away from being named the Coach of the Year.
Karl's career regular-season winning percentage of 59.9 percent is plenty impressive, even if his teams have struggled mightily as of late to have playoff success.
Perhaps more importantly, though, Karl's offenses almost always rank near the very top of the league, which is something Golden State hasn't been able to do despite having Stephen Curry and plenty of talent around him. You have to imagine that Karl's transition-oriented approach would translate very nicely to a roster that can really get up and down the court and shoot the lights out from deep.
Karl has done some great things with much less firepower over the years, and the presence of Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut could keep the Warriors as potent of a defensive team as they are now (fourth in defensive efficiency, per Basketball-Reference.com). Karl's game management has been called into question as well, but at least schematically, he could improve the Warriors quite a bit.
Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers has received a lot of credit for turning the Clippers' stagnant offense into a more free-flowing machine, but his assistant Alvin Gentry has a lot to do with that as well.
Although sustained success has eluded him as a head coach (Gentry has won 47.5 percent of his regular-season games), Gentry's offenses are almost always explosive and built around ideas that could really make use of Golden State's backcourt talent.
After taking over for Mike D'Antoni with the Phoenix Suns, Gentry continued to lead the Suns' fast-paced, three-point-heavy attack. Gentry's offense does a great job of maximizing space and getting big men on the move. As Blake Griffin has shown this year, bigs with great passing skills (which David Lee and Andrew Bogut have) can really take things to the next level.
Again, if the focus is on maximizing Golden State's underperforming offense, a coach like Gentry could certainly do the trick. He's a highly regarded basketball mind, and it would be a surprise if he isn't roaming the sidelines once again in the very near future.
Every year, there's a hot assistant who has flown up the coaching ladder thanks to a strong drive and good character, and this year, that assistant might be Kaleb Canales.
Canales was eventually passed up on the head job in Portland for Terry Stotts, but he's with the Dallas Mavericks this year under Rick Carlisle, who is considered one of the best coaches in basketball.
'First of all, he has good spirit,' Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge said. 'He's always into it with energy and he's wholeheartedly always giving 100 percent. I think he put everybody in a good position and we loved him.'
While the Warriors may opt for more proven experience if they replace Jackson, Canales might be one of the few coaches who can keep the Warriors locker room positive. Not having an ego and recognizing shortcomings with the team and with his coaching style could help the Warriors quite a bit as well. Going with an unproven coach is always risky, but it has paid dividends with guys such as Erik Spoelstra in the past.
There are a dozens of assistants in the NBA who are certified basketball brainiacs, but few of them have Fizdale's combination of acumen and capacity to relate to NBA players, despite having never played in the league.
'[Fizdale] grew up hard and fought to get to where he is,' says another NBA power broker. 'It's given him an ability to connect because he understands where a lot of these guys came from.'
Like [Erik] Spoelstra, Fizdale is an alumnus of the Heat's video room during the 1990s. He also cut his teeth in the player development realm at Tim Grgurich's venerable big man camp and as an assistant with Golden State and Atlanta. There's a broad consensus that the question isn't if, but when Fizdale will be tapped for a lead job.
It seems natural to take the best assistants from the league's best teams, and Fizdale definitely qualifies. Every team is playing catch-up to Miami's style anyway, so perhaps Golden State could use more of the small-ball approach that helped them achieve playoff success last year.
Even if Fizdale doesn't run things the way Spoelstra does, he has plenty of experience managing personalities and helping to handle high expectations. As far as assistants without head coaching experience go, Fizdale seems like one of the safest options out there.
Besides, after firing two assistants this season, it would be somewhat poetic if Jackson was ultimately replaced by another assistant, right?
Every year, there seems to be someone from the college ranks who's highly sought after. This year, it looks like Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg is going to be that guy.
Hoiberg has quite a few things working in his favor. The first is that he's a former NBA player with 10 seasons under his belt, which means he obviously knows the pro game and can relate easily with its players.
In addition to that, Hoiberg has also served in the front office of the Minnesota Timberwolves, which gives him some perspective from an angle that hardly any coaches get. Hoiberg has also rebuilt Iowa State's program completely using mostly pro schemes, so there's little concern of how his style will translate.
It doesn't hurt that Hoiberg is still young and clearly passionate about the game, either. There really isn't a whole lot not to like here, and if he's willing to leave Iowa State, you'd have to imagine he'll have his pick of a few teams. If Jackson does get let go, there probably won't be any better jobs than Golden State.
Again, it's hard to say how much of an upgrade Hoiberg would be over Jackson simply because we haven't seen him run an NBA team, but with great experience and success on nearly every level, the prospects look pretty good for the man they call The Mayor.