The 49ers considered trading the coach who led them out of the wilderness.
The Warriors have put heat on the coach who is leading what might be the best Warriors team in 30 years.
If this stuff keeps up, folks around the country are going to start thinking people here in the Bay Area are weird.
The Warriors’ current crisis, which centers on head coach Mark Jackson demoting assistant coach Brian Scalabrine to minor-league duty, might be partly a media creation. But that doesn’t mean there’s no turmoil at the top.
This might sound corny, sappy and Hollywood-ish, but the Warriors have something special going on, and now it’s co-owner Joe Lacob’s job to step up and see that whatever bad stuff is swirling around gets contained before it becomes a problem.
It won’t be easy, but that’s why Lacob pays himself the big bucks.
Lacob has to grasp how rare this opportunity is. If Yahoo.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who wrote an article about the Warriors’ “increasingly dysfunctional atmosphere,” wanted to see dysfunction, he should have dropped by any time during the past 15 years or so.
One definition of dysfunction is “not performing normally.” In that respect this is the most dysfunctional Warriors team in two decades, because it’s not bad.
“We’re two years removed from being a terrible basketball team,” Stephen Curry said Wednesday after practice. “The transformation we’ve had since coach Jackson has been here has been obviously evident, and it raises expectations. Yeah, we’ve lost some winnable games we shouldn’t have along the way, but that’s part of the growth process. We’re on pace for the best season in 20 years – that’s the sign of good change. I support Coach 100 percent and understand what he’s done for us. … Mostly all of (the change), that’s as a result of him.”
Actually, Lacob brought about most of the change, including the new coach. But Curry was reacting to reports that Jackson’s butt is on the line, and the star player left no doubt about his support. From every indication, Curry’s teammates feel the same.
Outside the locker room, in the high offices, it gets complicated, but let me try to simplify.
Jackson said Wednesday of the Yahoo.com report, “None of it was true.”
That’s not entirely true. Lacob has high expectations for this season, probably conference finals or bust, which is unreasonable. Lacob also worries about the winnable losses.
Lacob doesn’t want the world to start looking at his organization as a clown car.
From Jackson’s viewpoint: Two assistant coaches have been thrust on him, Mike Malonetwo seasons ago and Scalabrine this season. Jackson OKd both hires, but neither one was his guy, and he probably felt that his authority was undermined.
Jackson was not happy that the team didn’t offer to renegotiate his contract after last season. The team wasn’t happy that he wasn’t happy.
Also, Lacob has put together a creative and effective brain trust, including GM Bob Myers and consultant Jerry West, and what’s in place is a mix of strong egos and opinions.
So if you don’t call it dysfunction, call it turmoil at the top.
What Lacob has to do now, to keep the bad sound to a dull roar, is call his top guys together in one room, air it out and make sure everyone calms down and works as a team. There can be disagreement, even dislike, but the team of suits has to pull together.
The players are fine. They get back to action Friday night, and whatever happens, they won’t be in a daze caused by the furor. The players realize the pot is boiling, but they believe in their coach, and vice versa.
“All I can say,” Curry said, “is I love Coach and everything he’s about. I love playing for him, and that’s all that matters to me.”
That’s strong stuff.
Scalabrine was popular, but Jackson told the team this was a move he needed to make, and Curry said that’s good enough for him.
When I asked Jackson what it meant to have Curry express such strong support, Jackson said, “He’s dysfunctional. According to Bill Simmons and Wojnarowski and all those guys, (Curry) doesn’t know what he’s talking about. So in all seriousness, I don’t expect anything less. He’s a guy I have tremendous love and appreciation for, he’s a franchise guy, he knows how we go about doing things, and I’m extremely blessed to be his head coach.”
Love, love. Cornball stuff, right? About 29 other teams in the league would kill to have this kind of sap flowing between coach and players.
–Scott Ostler, San Francisco Chronicle
The world is comically obsessed with urgency these days. Everything is so damn important, and it’s damn important right now.
This is particularly so here in the United States. In many European cities, someone will grow or catch something to eat through patience and planning, then spend the better part of an afternoon — after a three-hour, midday nap — lovingly crafting a family-style meal that’s enjoyed by an actual entire family (or three) over a few hours and some carefully selected vino.
Here, we’re more than OK with scarfing down — in our car, by ourselves and in less than 10 minutes — 10 McNuggets that were poured from an ice-crusted, plastic-lined cardboard box into a vat of nasty, cracklin’ oil by a teenager whose face has a similarly constituted oil of its own. Washed down with a vat of something with a few bubbles and a ton of sugar.
It’s even worse in sports. World-class soccer — sorry, futbol — might be an exception, but outside the U.S., a team is a fan’s family, and imperfections are tolerated or minimized with the modest expectation that things will eventually get better.
Here, Warriors coach Mark Jackson banishes a young assistant coach whose name sounds a lot like “Scrubini” (fittingly so, it should be noted), and all of a sudden the sky is falling. The notion of team discord, disturbingly unsubstantiated by anything more authoritative than a respected national sportswriter with a cellphone full of anonymous sources and an army of Twitter followers, takes center stage.
Never mind that Jackson’s team, three years ago a league-wide joke, is playing its best ball of the year over the past several weeks and is a legitimate threat to rip off a couple rounds of playoff success.
ScrubiniGate is legit! We’ve got a problem here, man. What the eff are we gonna do? Who does this brash New Yorker think he is, anyway? Should we just can him now?
Same deal with Colin Kaepernick and his contract situation. Never mind he already has a contract and can be franchise tagged next year. We’re all busy debating what he’s worth, and whether his feelings will be hurt if the stud pass rusher who apparently set a world record for quickest resolution of an addiction issue gets paid more or sooner than our man Kap.
It’s embarrassing. The Warriors are a blast. The Niners are, too. And they will be for a while. Why not discuss and appreciate that? Nope. We’ve got a bunch of little burrs in our saddle, preventing us from enjoying what should be a glorious ride.
And did you hear Marco Scutaro isn’t going to be starting on Opening Day? Yep. True story. And tragic as all hell, if you believe all the blather about it.
Who’s gonna hit second? Who’s gonna PLAY second? Who’s the jackass who signed that fossil to a multiyear deal while nursing a World Series hangover, anyway?!?
Better questions: Who cares? Who cares? and Who cares? But for the record, the answer to that third question of the previous paragraph is this: Brian Sabean, who played a far more important role in winning two World Series trophies than Scutaro did in winning one.
Yoenis Cespedes had a commode-worthy Cactus League, by the way. Put a fork in him, right?
Wrong. But you’re close. Fork rhymes with cork, and that’s what we all need to put in our McNuggets hole whenever the urge to jerk knees over a recent but entirely possibly eventually irrelevant development.
–Mychael Urban, San Francisco Examiner
From a basketball perspective, Mark Jackson’s demoting assistant coach Brian Scalabrine has the impact of a first-quarter, three-seconds violation. If the Warriors’ chances were pinned on the No. 4 assistant, they were doomed anyway.
But in the big picture, this latest incident isn’t good for Jackson. At least not for his future as the Warriors’ coach.
Alone, who cares? But throw in past issues with former assistant Michael Malone that are now surfacing. Throw in co-owner Joe Lacob’s public expression of disappointment with this season. Throw in this team’s propensity for the disappointing loss, leaving a fan base with heartburn.
It all comes across as a regime falling apart. It creates a perception that Jackson is losing control.
The worst part? That perception might not even be reality. But it can become — maybe has become — reality, which is why this is not good. The Warriors could end up losing a good young coach based on appearances.
Team insiders are mum about the details, but something happened. Scalabrine did something that Jackson thought was severe enough to all but sever ties.
Was Jackson legitimate in his course of action, shipping Scalabrine to the NBA Development League? Is he a good steward, weeding out something that might prevent his team from excelling?
Or is Jackson being too paranoid and controlling?
We don’t know. You would think it doesn’t matter if he is getting the job done. You could make a strong case Jackson is doing that, which means he’s being unfairly targeted. But you could also make the case these incidents are the smoke from the trash can fire you don’t notice until the house is ablaze.
If this were a political election, Jackson’s best strategy would be to hammer home one talking point: wins.
The Warriors are headed toward 50 wins for the first time since Billy Owens was playing point-forward. They are fighting for a fifth seed, with an outside shot at No. 4 and home-court advantage. Jackson has the Warriors playing defense at a level this area hasn’t seen.
Yet we can’t stop talking about assistant coaches.
Yahoo Sports, which first reported Scalabrine’s reassignment, reported Jackson and Malone feuded last year, and they went weeks without speaking. There had been rumblings in the locker room about Malone’s value being overblown by media, and he was more focused on landing his first head-coaching gig.
Here is what we know: Jackson went out of his way to pump up assistant coach Pete Myers’ talent as a budding head coach, almost as a rebuttal to talk about Malone’s value to the Warriors’ success.
And the way he spoke out against assistant coach Lawrence Frank allegedly undermining Brooklyn Nets coach Jason Kidd, you got the sense Jackson had a double-meaning behind his public comments.
Does that make him old school, believing assistant coaches’ sole responsibility is to support the head coach? Or was Jackson unhappy with Malone’s getting all the attention?
The fact that we can’t answer with certainty is why this isn’t good. Even if Jackson is correctly weeding out a divisive figure, he still takes the hit for hiring him. And for a management still not completely sold on him, it’s doubtful this type of stuff produces confidence.
Whether it’s Malone drama, or the new Scalabrine stuff, or talk about him going to the New York Knicks, or rants against the media for twisting his comments about Andrew Bogut — this stuff detracts from what is going well on the court.
Which is why these hard-to-swallow defeats the Warriors have become known for are even more damaging.
One of the staples of his tenure has been the chemistry in the locker room. His players love him, even when they are riding the bench, and they play hard for him. And several said they still believe in him.
When asked if Jackson was losing control, one player responded: “Absolutely not.”
But the Warriors have developed a pattern of playing down to competition and not maxing out every night. So Jackson’s strongest hand has taken a hit. At least that’s the perception.
His first year, Jackson was often asked what had been the most surprising element as a head coach. He often pointed out how he had to choose when they would travel and what hotel they’d stay in. He was surprised the head coach was responsible for everything.
The head coach is responsible for everything, and one of the chief tasks is keeping the house in order. His removal of Scalabrine may have put his house in order.
But taking in all things, this latest news makes Jackson’s staff look every bit unstable.
–Marcus Thompson II, San Jose Mercury News