The Cleveland Cavaliers need a new head coach.
Mark Jackson just so happens to need a job.
The two parties should probably start talking, and fast, before Jackson gets snapped up by another team.
Cleveland, which fired Mike Brown (again) after just one season, needs a new leader who can command the respect of players and is a proven winner in the league.
Jackson, let go by the Golden State Warriors recently after three seasons, has been praised by former players and helped bring winning basketball back to Oakland.
The Cavs should begin their pursuit of Jackson immediately for the following reasons.
Experience With Young Talent
The Cavaliers represent a great fit for Jackson due to their similarity to the Warriors.
For starters, both teams are built around offensive-minded point guards.
The year before Jackson took over in Golden State, Curry averaged 18.6 points and 5.8 assists per game. This past season, Curry upped those numbers to 24.0 points and 8.5 assists.
Much like Kyrie Irving with the Cavs, Curry came into the league looking to score first, second and third. His assist totals were very similar to Irving's through two years (both averaged 6.2 per 36 minutes), with neither taking on the title of "pure point guard."
Having spent three years under Jackson, Curry upped his assist averages by nearly three per game. His assist percentage rose from 28.1 percent before Jackson to 39.9 percent this past season.
Despite being a relative unknown coming out of Washington State in the 2011 NBA draft, shooting guard Klay Thompson excelled under Jackson. His 18.6 points on 41.7 percent shooting from deep in 2013-14 were both career highs.
Current Cavalier and former Warrior Jarrett Jack had the best season of his nine-year career under Jackson in 2012-13. As Golden State's sixth man, Jack put up 12.9 points and 5.6 assists on 45.2 percent shooting from the field. This past year under Mike Brown, Jack disappointed with just 9.5 points and 4.1 assists on 41.0 percent shooting.
Jackson has proved he can develop young players, especially point guards. If given the opportunity, he would help turn Irving into one of the best floor generals in the league.
Mike Brown never seemed to have control of the Cavaliers locker room, nor did he command their respect.
It's my personal belief that constantly demanding defense, defense, defense with no offensive system to back it up can rub players the wrong way. Yes, they're professionals, but NBA players are also human. At some point, they're going to want to play in an offense conducive to their talents instead of spending practices focusing only on defensive schemes.
Since Brown was let go by the Cavs, all has been quiet on the players' front when it comes to supporting their former boss. This silence should speak volumes.
On the other hand, players like Curry were quite vocal in their support of Jackson. Curry told ESPN before Jackson was let go:
I love Coach more than anybody. For him to be in a position where his job is under scrutiny and under questions is totally unfair. … I'm definitely going to voice my support for Coach to anybody that asks me all summer. He deserves to be our coach next year, and we're going to come back and build off of the momentum we've gained over the past three years and continue to grow as a team. I want Coach Jackson to be that guy leading us.
Power forward David Lee has seen the difference Jackson made in transforming the Warriors from a lottery-dweller to title contender. He also was very supportive of Jackson, via the Associated Press and CBS:
I’ve said it all year that he has my support. Who knows if there’s even a decision to be made? Who knows if we’re going to even be asked about it? But we’ve made it clear we’re in support (of Jackson) if and when we’re asked.
It's worth noting that Curry agreed to a four-year, $44 million extension with the Warriors while Jackson was on board. Had he opted for restricted free agency the year after, it's possible he could have earned another $14 million over the length of the deal.
With Irving's extension looming, the hiring of a players' coach like Jackson could help convince him to stay as well.
Change of Culture
The hiring of Jackson would immediately bring much needed credibility, not to mention stability, to the Cavaliers organization.
When joining the Warriors, Jackson took over a squad that had reached the playoffs just one time since the 1993-94 season. The team had some young scorers and a solid veteran in David Lee but appeared far from contending in the Western Conference. Less than two years after taking the job, Jackson had the W's in the second round of the playoffs.
His 51 wins this past season were the most by a Warriors team since 1991-92 and tied for the third most in franchise history. Their team defensive rating of 102.6 was the lowest by a Golden State squad in 15 years.
Jackson took a team that had gotten used to making lottery picks and turned them into a playoff regular in the West.
This is exactly what the Cavaliers need. Someone who can come in, gain the respect of players and change the culture surrounding the organization.
Jackson should be atop the Cavs' wish list and would make an excellent head coach in Cleveland.
All stats via basketball-reference.com unless otherwise noted.
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