Jackson hiring just another puzzling move by Golden State
The Golden State Warriors are a puzzling organization, and new ownership isn't doing anything to change that reputation.
On Monday night, six weeks after releasing a head coach who had no previous experience and conducting a prolonged search with experienced candidates, the Warriors announced they were hiring Mark Jackson as their head man.
Mark Jackson, the television analyst.
Mark Jackson, who has no coaching experience.
It was a bold move, a hugely risky move, a confusing move. Joe Lacob and Peter Guber took over the Warriors last autumn, replacing the toxic ownership of Chris Cohan and inheriting a team vying for consideration as the NBA's worst franchise.
The Warriors have made the playoffs once in 17 years. They have made 11 coaching changes in that time, most recently firing Keith Smart, who improved the team's win total by 10 games. Save for one aberrant season in 2007, they have been an unrelenting disaster.
Lacob and Guber promised big changes, big improvement. And now they've hired a neophyte to deliver on their big promises.
"You want to have a guy who's strong enough to be in charge," lame-duck general manager Larry Riley said on a conference call Monday. "Mark has a strong personality. Not abrasive, but he has a strong personality."
The news was met with wariness in Golden State. The one thing the Warriors have going for them is a loyal, overly patient fan base that continues to wait through the team's failures and bad ideas, hoping for a better day.
But the last thing the Bay Area needs is another big-personality-but-no-experience former player becoming head coach of one of its professional sports franchises to disastrous results. The Mike Singletary debacle with the 49ers was enough.
The NBA is different than the NFL, of course. Jackson spent 17 years playing point guard in the league. He brings court credibility. His recent stint in the broadcast booth means that players know who he is. He is expected to hire an experienced staff: Mike Malone is leaving his post in New Orleans to join Jackson in Golden State.
But the Warriors need to turn things around quickly. They can't waste time as a training ground.
Lacob and Guber brought in Jerry West last month to sit on their board and act as an uber-consultant. That move was widely applauded; West has more NBA credibility in his well-decorated ring finger than anyone else associated with the Warriors.
He gave his endorsement to the Jackson move in an interview with the San Jose Mercury News, saying, "It's the start of trying to do something a little bit differently and build a better team."
This is different, to be sure. The Warriors fans wouldn't mind if they tried to do something a little bit the same as other winning franchises.
Jackson played for five Hall-of-Fame coaches in his career: Lou Carnesecca, Pat Riley, Larry Brown, Lenny Wilkens and Jerry Sloan.
"I didn't just play for them; I stole from them," Jackson told his current employer ESPN, in an interview on Monday.
Sloan was reported to be one of the first names the Warriors contacted in their coaching search. But he and another experienced candidate, Jeff Van Gundy, turned the team down. A series of interviews with experienced assistants apparently didn't yield what the Warriors were looking for.
Jackson won't join the Warriors until after the NBA Finals, and he'll find a team that doesn't look like the ones he spent May and June watching from the soundstage. Success in the NBA is dictated by players, not coaches, and the current Warriors don't have enough good players in the right positions to be a playoff team.
Reports that the Warriors and 76ers have talked about swapping Monta Ellis for Andre Iguodala are just the beginning of what will likely be a steady stream of Ellis trade rumors. West, at his inaugural press conference, reminded his audience that he liked to be bold and had traded star players in the past. The roster that Jackson will lead will be a work in progress.
Guber made his money in the movie business. And so far he's casting an interesting sports movie. The white-haired legend has come on board to be a mentor. The fiery, well-spoken former point guard is now in place as the head coach.
In Hollywood, it would all work perfectly. But in the NBA, it's just one more puzzling move for a woebegone franchise.