It didn’t take long for Golden State Warriors majority owner Joe Lacob to sound off to the press on management’s decision to dismiss head coach Mark Jackson following the team’s seven-game Round 1 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Stay on the offensive: That’s what smart politicians—and, by deduction, smart professional sports owners—do.
Mark Jackson was always going to have a word, of course. In a Tuesday afternoon phone interview with the San Jose Mercury News’ Tim Kawakami, he had more than a few—most of them professional and positive:
I want to thank the Warriors organization for giving me a chance and thank the incredible fans in the area. And thank my players who I love and appreciate.
We accomplished a lot in three years and we should be proud. I wish them nothing but the best.
But to me, now the pressure’s on for them to get a championship. It’s not the time for them to be patient any more.
Patience is precisely what many Warriors fans will see as lacking in Golden State’s decision. However, credit Jackson for taking the high road, best highlighted by these particularly laudatory remarks:
This is a championship-caliber team. We were in the playoffs without David last year, and we were without Bogut this year.
When this team is healthy, it is a legit contender. That’s something that we’re all looking at going forward.
Beyond the simple self-interest angle—if you just got fired after making the playoffs, would you say your team was bad?—Jackson's remarks aren't entirely without statistical merit.
As far back as January, ESPN's Kevin Arnovitz was drawing due attention to Golden State's hyper-productive starting lineup, a unit that would serve as the team's security blanket throughout the season.
Unfortunate ending aside, Jackson will likely have his pick of two or three head coaching jobs sooner rather than later—if not this summer, then certainly by this time next year.
“Well, I’ve got a lot of messages on my phone that I haven’t checked yet,” Jackson told Kawakami. “That’ll play itself out. I know it’ll work out.”
Over the last three years, Coach Jackson has challenged me as a player and person. His experience and guidance has helped each of us grow in this league.
Can’t thank him enough for all he did for me. I wish him all the best as he transitions to the next chapter.
What’s next for Jackson? From the secular to the sacred, preaching to TV preening, Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes says Jackson’s options are many and close between:
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.
As for the Warriors, their coaching search is expected to begin in earnest, with Steve Kerr, Stan Van Gundy and collegiate sensation Fred Hoiberg each being bandied about by Bleacher Report's Scott Burns as possible replacements.
Whoever winds up patrolling Golden State’s sidelines next season, they’ll do so knowing the fringe benefits of coaching a playoff team in one of America’s truly great cities will come at a price: a margin for error in which even 50 wins and back-to-back playoff appearances might not be quite good enough.