“Things had to change,” Mark Jackson said on The Dan Patrick Show just one day after being fired as the head coach of the Golden State Warriors. From the way he answered questions, it appeared obvious Jackson’s mind may have already been made up: he was going to leave regardless.
Jackson wasn’t “playing the game” the way owner Joe Lacob or GM Bob Myers wanted him to. For those unsure what “playing the game” means–the phrase gets dropped multiple times in their conversation–it’s a reference to the politics of Jackson doing things the way the Warriors front office wants things done. But although Jackson brought the team to 51 wins this season, in addition to pushing the Los Angeles Clippers (arguably the most talented roster in the NBA) to a seven-game series without center Andrew Bogut, clearly, he failed to play the game this season, leading to his dismissal.
Jackson fired two of his assistant coaches before the last month of the NBA season, and there were reports of him clashing with Hall of Famer Jerry West and banning him from practices.
If you can’t get along with your boss, front office members or your own coaching staff, did you really expect Jackson’s firing to come as a surprise? The players were probably playing through the dysfunction. They didn’t sound too shocked either by the firing of their head coach.
With the Warriors firing Jackson after their best season in over 20 years, criticism for the front office is as high as it’s ever been since owner Joe Lacob was booed for trading away fan favorite Monta Ellis.
What you should know about Lacob is he certainly isn’t afraid of the spotlight, nor is he afraid to make daring moves. I’ll be the first to tell you that I didn’t initially agree with the decision to trade Ellis, believing the Warriors took a step back from it. But with how Lacob proved me and all of these Warriors fans wrong, I’ll be the first to never doubt any move he ever makes with this franchise again.
With that said, I came up with five reasons why I believe firing Mark Jackson was actually a good thing for the Warriors.
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1. Xs and Os
From multiple reports, I’ve read Jackson often referred to his assistant coaches to do much of the work, particularly the Xs and Os of the game. He was known to be a good motivator, but didn’t really know enough strategically to win more at the end of the day. From watching Warriors games last season, I would often see former assistant coach Mike Malone, the current head coach of the Sacramento Kings, do much of the coaching in late-game situations, drawing up plays. Sure, you can be a preacher and a good motivator, but a head coach at the professional level must know how to do it all.
Take coach Gregg Popovich from the San Antonio Spurs as a prime example of a good Xs and Os coach. In Popovich’s system, he’s proven to put every player in the right place, getting the most out of every member on his team. The Spurs may not have the most talented roster on paper, but for some reason, Popovich knows how to win games without any player on his team stealing the spotlight. Perhaps, he’s the reason the Spurs have the best record in the NBA. Popovich is a coach Mark Jackson could learn from.
2. Isolation Basketball
Not understanding the Xs and Os of the game can be costly, which would often result in a lot of isolation basketball from the Warriors. If you followed the Warriors this season, there were a countless number of times that Mark Jackson would clear out for Stephen Curry whenever the Warriors needed a bucket. If he wasn’t shooting threes, you often see Klay Thompson post up a smaller defender and go one-on-one, or David Lee just post up and iso himself in the paint.
To make matters worse, Jordan Crawford would almost always come off the bench and play one-on-one against anyone. Isolation basketball kills movement–the entire team just stands around. There was too much of that from too many Warriors players with Jackson. Yes, talent will win you games in this league, but at the end of the day, team basketball and ball movement will always win you more.