Despite guiding the Golden State Warriors to 51 wins during the regular season and a 2-2 series tie thus far in their first-round matchup with the Los Angeles Clippers, Mark Jackson’s smoldering hot seat has yet to cool off.
The NBA has always proven to be extremely fickle in regards to how their coaches are treated, and Jackson, despite turning around the floundering franchise that was the Warriors, has been no exception. What Jackson has that other coaches didn’t, however, is the absolute support of his players.
Under no circumstance should the Warriors ownership allow their coach to slip through their fingers.
The arguments against Jackson are there, and they are very, very real. He will never be regarded as an elite X’s and O’s guy, maybe not even an average one. His tendency to run his players ragged, both young and old, is troubling at best. The bumpy roller coaster ride that was the management of his coaching staff en route to the playoffs also leaves a lot to be desired.
His team believes in him, though. They buy the message that he is preaching and will go to war for their coach. At the end of the day, isn’t that what is really important?
Jackson has changed the culture of the Warriors’ locker room to the point that pride has been left at the door and contributions are being made from the most unlikely of sources.
Take for example Hilton Armstrong, the little-used power forward who had people asking, “who?” when he stepped on the court. A couple of minutes later, after consecutive buckets over Matt Barnes, Armstrong left the court to a deafening roar, an ovation possible only because of his head coach.
This was not lost on Armstrong, who approached his coach after the game, courtesy of Ethan Sherwood Strauss of ESPN.com, and said, “Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for trusting me.”
Jackson has shown an unwavering belief in his players, and they in turn have responded with the same type of support. Jermaine O’Neal, a veteran of the league for 17 seasons, willingly took himself out of the starting lineup when he saw that the series dictated a curveball. The 6’11”, 255-pound giant proved to be even bigger than himself when he realized that going small was the necessary course of action.
“Ego is for losers,” said O’Neal when asked if coming to that decision affected him at all, courtesy of Strauss. In the past it might have, but not on this Warriors team, not under Mark Jackson.
Coaches all try to find a way to get the most out of their players, some with more success than others. Gregg Popovich has his system, Tom Thibodeau has his defensive philosophy, Mark Jackson has his motivational skills.
It doesn’t always look pretty for the Warriors, especially late in games, when Jackson’s inability to always script successful plays are at times exposed. This was evident at the end of Game 3, where the play call was essentially just give the ball to Stephen Curry.
We all know how that ended.
It wasn’t the first time a lack of creativity hurt the Warriors, and it most likely won’t be the last. Jackson trusts his players to a fault, believing they’ll make the right play regardless of the situation. In Game 3, it did them in. In Game 4, that trust sparked a level of play the Warriors hadn’t reached all series.
Jackson giveth, and Jackson taketh away.
When it comes to this Warriors team, though, Jackson has given them more than the fanbase could ever have hoped for. They’ve won 50 games for the first time in 20 years, made the postseason in back-to-back seasons and they are now legitimately a destination for top-tier players, as the Andre Iguodala signing proved.
He’s not a perfect coach, not by any stretch of the imagination, but he’s earned the opportunity to stick around. His players would be the first ones to tell you that. Changing coaches now would undo all the good that Jackson has accomplished in the locker room.
Regardless of whether or not the Warriors pull off the upset over the more talented Clippers is irrelevant; Jackson has done enough to earn at least another season at the helm of the Golden State Warriors.