Mark Jackson surpassed expectations by getting the Golden State Warriors to a very competitive Game 7 without the services of his defensive player of the year candidate, Andrew Bogut. Coach Jackson maximized his talent, but he didn't get an answer regarding his status next year.
The talk of his status has escalated in recent weeks, brought upon by the firing of his assistant Darren Erman and the reassignment of subordinate, Brian Scalabrine.
However, the Warriors won 51 games and returned to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in 22 years. The team has improved its record three straight seasons.
However, Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted that Jackson is going to have a hard time making a case for himself.
Mark Jackson doesn't have one GSW front office ally who'll make a case to ownership to keep him. "He's on an island," league source says.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) May 4, 2014
The Warriors ownership group, led by Joe Lacob, has kept the company line that Coach Jackson’s performance will be evaluated at season’s end. Jackson still has one season left on his contract, but nobody wants to see him as a lame duck.
His players, especially during the first-round series versus the Los Angeles Clippers, have been fighting for him. Stephen Curry let Diamond Leung of the San Jose Mercury News know of his feelings toward his coach.
Stephen Curry: "I want Coach Jackson to be that guy leading us."— Diamond Leung (@diamond83) May 4, 2014
However, there are a lot of minor details that don’t sit quite well with the Warriors’ brass. The San Jose Mercury News’ Tim Kawakami details what may influence the decision.
There is definitely a difference of opinion between management and his players, but if Lacob wants the first choice of potential coaches, he better act fast. Both of the biggest NBA markets, Los Angeles and New York, have coaching vacancies.
Who is available?
If Coach Jackson is shown the door, the three most notable names are Fred Hoiberg, Steve Kerr and Stan Van Gundy. Both Hoiberg and Van Gundy have coaching experience, but only the latter has it at the professional level.
Let’s take a closer look at each candidate.
The former 10-year NBA shooting guard and four-year Minnesota Timberwolves front-office executive is currently the head coach at Iowa State University. He is rebuilding the program to become a national power, and in four seasons, he has compiled a record of 90-47.
He brought his team to the NCAA tournament the last three years. The Cyclones made it all the way to the Regional Semifinal, where they lost to the NCAA Champion, University of Connecticut.
Hoiberg runs a pro-style offense that relies heavy on the three-point shot, similar to the Warriors. His team focuses more on offense than defense, but the team’s defense is nothing to sneeze at.
Like the Warriors, his team has overcome double-digit deficits to win games. With the style of play that Dubs’ fans are accustomed to, his style wouldn't be that much different than Coach Jackson.
Hoiberg has a very good understanding of Xs-and-Os, prides himself on consistency and has a demeanor that never shows him sweat. The biggest part of the transition will be adapting to the pro game.
Steve Kerr is another version of Coach Jackson, as he is a former point guard who has spent the majority of his retirement in the TNT booth.
However, during the span of 2007-2010, Kerr took the job of president of basketball operations and general manager of the Phoenix Suns. He made some difficult trades in his three-year run, but he missed out on the one that would have brought the Suns Curry.
During his time in Phoenix, Kerr managed a team that had three second-place finishes in the division and two playoff appearances. In his final season, the team lost in the Western Conference Finals to the Los Angeles Lakers.
During his playing career, Kerr played point guard in the NBA for 15 seasons, winning five titles between two teams, the Chicago Bulls and the San Antonio Spurs. He won the titles under two top-tier head coaches, Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich.
As exciting as Kerr is as a candidate, he does not have any coaching experience. He is also being pursued heavily by the New York Knicks and their new GM Phil Jackson, as well as the Lakers.
Lacob wants results quickly, but there might be too high of a learning curve with Kerr. The talent is there, but the Warriors need a proven coach to get them to the next plateau.
Stan Van Gundy
The newest member attached to the Dubs’ coaching search is Stan Van Gundy, who is the only candidate with actual NBA coaching experience.
Van Gundy has had stints with the Miami Heat and the Orlando Magic in his eight-year NBA career and a 371-208 regular season record to boot. He won the Eastern Conference in 2009 with the Magic and lost in the Conference Finals to the Boston Celtics the following year.
Oh, he has never had a losing record as a head coach.
He has a reputation of being stubborn and relentless, but he also focuses on the defensive side of the ball. He uses his guards to create in transition, but he also runs the offense through his bigs.
Bogut will be a larger focus of the Warriors’ offense, and Curry and Klay Thompson will do a lot more work off the ball. Bogut and Lee will get more chances to create in the post, while they can use their dexterity to find open looks out on the perimeter.
The big question that remains is if the Warriors can convince him to leave his current job as an NBC Sports Analyst to accept the reins as the Dubs new coach.
The Warriors have three solid coaching candidates to make a potential decision if Coach Jackson is forced out the door. The management needs to pick the coach who can take this team to the next level on the fly without having to regress for a season or two.
The Warriors championship is slowly closing with the current crop of players on this team. Andre Iguodala, Bogut and Lee aren't getting any younger, and having a coach that will take a year or two to setup a new system won’t benefit the Warriors.
With that being said, Steve Kerr would probably be a better fit for the Knicks or the Lakers.
Hoiberg is a lot better candidate, because he runs a system similar to the Warriors and is more consistent. His biggest question is how quickly he can make the adjustment to the speed and style of the pro game.
Van Gundy has been there before, and he has the knowledge of having gone through the wars, especially with the Dwight Howard saga in Orlando. Van Gundy is a very good coach who knows how to win and focus on defense.
The decision is in the hands of Warriors management. If they want to cut loose Coach Jackson and chase somewhat unrealistic expectations, they will choose Van Gundy.
He is the win-now option and the best choice to take the Dubs to the coveted next plateau as an elite team.