Judging by the faction of the public utterly outraged by his firing from the Golden State Warriors, per USA Today's Sam Amick (h/t Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports), Mark Jackson has more than a few very vocal—if not particularly evenhanded—defenders.
He also now has plenty of options in his next job search.
Jackson's talents are many, and whatever you think about his politics, beliefs and skills as a tactician, you can safely assume he'll enter the unemployment market fully prepared. Getting canned wasn't a shock for him, and his comments over the past year indicate he saw this coming.
"But in three years, in the 23-win season, I didn’t throw anybody under the bus. And you can wait and wait and wait, and it won’t happen here until somebody else is sitting here." he said in a postgame press conference in February, per BayAreaSportsGuy.com.
Soon, somebody else will be sitting there.
In that same address, a response to the media unfairly (in Jackson's estimation) twisting his words about Andrew Bogut's injury, he also said, "I'll go down being me."
You sure did, coach.
And then, after the Warriors' Game 7 elimination at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers, Jackson further evidenced he was prepared for the inevitable, per Diamond Leung of the San Jose Mercury News:
I work every single day with a passion and a commitment like it's my last. I'm trying to be a blessing to people. I'm trying to impact people, and that's the way I live my life. That's the way I coach. I don't get caught up in it. I'm totally confident and have total faith that no matter what, I'm going to be fine, and that's even if I'm a full-time pastor. It's going to work out.
A Higher Calling?
Don't rule out that pastor stuff. One of the sticking points between Jackson and management was his refusal to move to the Bay Area full time, per Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle. He resisted because he runs a nondenominational church in Southern California, where he, an ordained minister, could now become—you guessed it—a full-time pastor.
An accomplished sermonizer, Jackson is a terrific speaker and a man who loves espousing his beliefs to a like-minded audience. That bothered a lot of people in his old job, but it'll be celebrated if he moves out of the secular world of private employment.
If manning the pulpit doesn't appeal to Jackson, there will also be a few coaching options.
At present, the Los Angeles Lakers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks and Utah Jazz are all in the market for a head coach. Please reserve your jokes about the Oklahoma City Thunder for a more appropriate time.
For Jackson, ego will likely prevent taking on the Minnesota or Utah jobs, and the Detroit situation isn't appealing either. But both the Knicks and Lakers might be intriguing options.
If the Warriors manage to pry Steve Kerr away from Phil Jackson on the strength of their superior talent, better weather and proximity to Kerr's California-based family, Jackson could become the next man up for the Knicks.
Remember, he was a candidate for the job in 2008, and Wojnarowski reported he "tried and failed" to get involved with the Brooklyn Nets and Clippers' coaching searches within the past year. So we know he's drawn to big markets.
Of course, Jackson would have to get past his insecurities about management overseeing his day-to-day work in order to get along with the very involved Phil Jackson. But maybe a chance to return to his hometown team and the franchise that originally drafted him will force a softening of his isolationist stance.
The Lakers are also an option, if only because of Jackson's name recognition and California ties. But it seems more likely the Lakers will look for a coach with historical connections to the franchise. That kind of thing is important to them, for some reason.
Rest assured, whatever job Jackson pursues, the vetting process will be thorough. Potential employers can't just ignore the reports that he alienated his staff, clashed with management and resisted input from minds as bright and respected as Jerry West.
Lacob said Jackson did a great job of managing down, but he needs to improve his ability to manage up and sideways in his next job.— Rusty Simmons (@Rusty_SFChron) May 6, 2014
Nicely put. I would have gone with something along the lines of: Be receptive when the guy on the NBA logo wants to bend your ear once in a while.
That closed-off reputation is going to hurt Jackson going forward.
Helping him, though, are the nearly 100 games he won over the past two seasons and the nearly unanimous vocal support he drew from his players. Jackson is hardly damaged goods. He's got a lot working for him as a coach.
And we can't move on without at least mentioning the possibility that he's learned from his experience in Golden State. Three years isn't a long time in the coaching profession, and while Jackson seems very set in his ways on a lot of topics, perhaps losing his first gig will make him more flexible (and better) in his second.
The Tube Beckons
Jackson spent years as an analyst for ABC and ESPN, where his blustery style and catchphrases made him hard to miss—if not necessarily easy to like.
TV suits him, and it allows him to be a little more bombastic and outspoken without fear of reprisal from management or the media. Jackson can pontificate all he wants on television; that's what it's for.
And after the mental strain of last season, it would be hard to blame him for wanting to take a hiatus from coaching before heading back into the breach. He certainly wouldn't be the first guy to recharge behind a microphone between stints on the bench.
If Kerr winds up pacing a sideline somewhere, I'm sure TNT would look long and hard at Jackson as a potential replacement.
Getting His Wish
Jackson's tenure with Golden State was contentious throughout and ugly toward the end. He was a victim of impatient management, but he also put himself into a tough spot by being so difficult to manage—so resistant to suggestions and so poor as a collaborative worker.
Maybe management should have backed off. Maybe Jackson should have opened up. Likely, everybody involved shares the blame here.
Basically, Jackson wanted to do things his way and bristled at hints that other minds might be able to help him improve a few things.
So whatever Jackson winds up doing in the future, we know one thing will make him happy about the present: His next step is entirely up to him.