What made Mark Jackson great for the Warriors also cost him his job
It's interesting that, in the end, Mark Jackson's greatest asset with players - his persona - is also what got him fired.
And persona is the right word. From the beginning in Golden State, Jackson presented a consistent face to the world: Uber-confident, bordering on imperious. He spoke in absolutes, just as he did in the announcer's booth. He never showed weakness. In his first season, even though expectations were low, he promised a playoff trip. He forbid his assistants from talking to the press, a strategy he borrowed from mentor Pat Riley, ostensibly to provide a consistent message.
The players fed off his assurance, and he had a gift for creating an us-vs.-them mentality in the locker room. Andre Iguodala chose to come to Golden State in part because of Jackson. Steph Curry, the team's franchise player, publicly backed his coach to the end. Current and former players took to Twitter on Tuesday to bemoan the firing.
It was in other parts of the job that Jackson ran into trouble. After prospering a season ago with Mike Malone as his lead assistant, Jackson decided not to replace Malone with another high-level X's and O's coach when Malone was hired by Sacramento. Though the Warriors' defense was solid this season, the offense was disappointing. Critics went after Jackson for his substitutions, timeout patterns and unimaginative sets. Another coach may have addressed these issues, perhaps brought in another savvy assistant. Jackson stood pat, then presided over a strange series of events in which two assistants (Brian Scalabrine and Darren Erman) were asked to leave the bench.
All of this would have been forgivable -- and certainly fixable -- had Jackson's relationship stayed strong with ownership. All indications, however, are that a steady decline occurred. If reports are to be believed, ownership found Jackson arrogant and inflexible (a charge, it should be noted, that some might also level at ownership). He reportedly had disagreements with Kirk Lacob, Joe's son. It's one thing to war with the media, or your coaching staff, another to get into it with your boss.
Still, Jackson won 51 games this season and, if not for Andrew Bogut's fractured rib or a few fouls calls here and there, might still be alive in the playoffs right now. Many places, that would be enough. But Lacob has made two things clear from the beginning: He wants a championship and he doesn't have a lot of patience. Sometimes this works out -- like trading Monta Ellis for Bogut. In this case, at least he acted quickly.
In a best-case scenario for Golden State, the Warriors lure Steve Kerr away from the clutches of Phil Jackson and add a piece in the offseason, then Kerr hits the ground running as a Doc Rivers-esque coach, fixes the offense and -- presto -- a title contender is created. Then again, maybe Bogut gets hurt again. Maybe Fred Hoiberg is the next Warriors coach, or Lionel Hollins. Whoever it is, he now knows where the bar rests in Joe Lacob's world. Incremental progress doesn't cut it.
Jackson will no doubt land on his feet. That's one of his skills. As for his legacy in the Bay Area, it may well be shaped by the success, or failure, of the man who succeeds him.