Golden State Warriors: Is Mark Jackson In Trouble?


March 12, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson watches game action against the Los Angeles Clippers during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

In the past couple weeks, much of the discussion about the Golden State Warriors has been about Mark Jackson. Many Warriors fans want Jackson to be fired, because they believe the Warriors haven’t lived up to expectations. They have classified the 2013-14 season as disappointing, despite the Warriors’ 46-29 record.

Does this mean Jackson’s future with the Warriors is in trouble? Not exactly…

On the court, his allocation of minutes, his play-calling, his rotations, and his decision-making have all been criticized this season, some of it warranted and some of it not.

Off the court though, Coach Jackson is one of the best motivators in the NBA, and often, motivating players can be the hardest task of all for a coach.

Coach Jackson isn’t a Gregg Popovich type of coach. Popovich is a master of both play-calling and motivating his players. However, Coach Jackson is still learning and developing as a coach. This is his third year of coaching in the NBA, and even though he could improve in certain areas, he’s not by any means a bad coach.

Tim Kawakami brings up a good point that Coach Jackson could use another top assistant coach, besides Pete Myers. Last season, Michael Malone, now the head coach of the Sacramento Kings, was Jackson’s top assistant, and many fans have discussed how much his absence this season has affected Jackson.

Despite the rumors that Jackson and Malone would go for weeks at a time without speaking to each other, Malone was known as the X’s and O’s coach for the Warriors. He drew up the plays in timeouts and in close-game situations, and many people believe that’s a skill that Jackson lacks.

Malone was also the “defensive coordinator” of the Warriors. However, in Malone’s absence, the Warriors rank fourth in the NBA in opponent field goal percentage at 43.6 this season after ranking fourth last year too. The Warriors haven’t seen a decline in their defense since Malone left, so Jackson has to be given credit for that.

In addition to the drama associated with the Malone situation, Jackson had trouble with another assistant coach, Brian Scalabrine, this season. About a week or so ago, it was reported that Jackson forced a reassignment of Scalabrine to the Warriors’ D-League affiliate, the Santa Cruz Warriors. This isn’t huge news because Scalabrine was the fourth assistant coach, but it does further the drama about Jackson’s “strained” relationship with the front office.

Jackson has one year left on his contract, and there hasn’t seemed to be any talks between Jackson and management about a contract extension.

In fact, there have been other rumors that Jackson might leave the Warriors after this season to coach the New York Knicks. Of course, this is all speculative at this point.

Also fueling the rumors of tension between Jackson and the front office, Joe Lacob hasn’t spoken out in support of Jackson since the Scalabrine reassignment.

However, Bob Myers showed support for Jackson yesterday in an interview with KNBR. Here are some quotes from the interview:

Along with Myers, many of the Warriors players have openly supported Jackson. Stephen Curry has been the most vocal about it. He said he loves playing for Jackson and he supports him 100 percent.

The Warriors’ other captain, David Lee, has also supported Jackson. Sam Amick of USA Today Sports spoke to Lee about this:

"“We have one of the best locker rooms, in my opinion, in the whole league,” said Lee, the ninth-year pro who played his first five seasons with the Knicks. “I’ve been on teams that had awful chemistry and the coaching staff is constantly arguing with players and vice versa, and there has been none of that here. The word ‘dysfunction’ (which has been used in the media to describe the Warriors) is one that we’ve been laughing about, almost making a joke out of it, like are you serious?“We trust Coach Jackson. We trust each other as teammates. There’s not a whole lot else you can worry about. Our chemistry is great. I think that we have a chance to do special things this year, so I’m just not going to let this bother me. We believe in Coach.”"

Jermaine O’Neal has also been vocal about the situation, and he told Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Gourp that he might even consider coming back for a 19th year in the NBA just so he can play for Coach Jackson again.

"“It’s a couple reasons why I will come back,” O’Neal said Saturday. “This fan base, this organization is first class, and obviously my teammates are great, as well.“But the No. 1 reason that I will come back and play another year is because of Coach Jackson. I’m absolutely, 100 percent positive about that. He makes it easy to come in this gym every day, and there’s not a lot of coaches that do that.”"

O’Neal also said that all the criticism of Jackson and the discussion about firing him is “ridiculous.”

Fans set high, yet somewhat unfair expectations for the Warriors this season. The Warriors are currently 17 games above .500, which is nothing to complain about.

Fans expected the Warriors to contend for a championship this season, but they seem to forget that it takes a few years for young teams, like the Oklahoma City Thunder for example, to grow and develop into title contenders. These unfair expectations have unfortunately fallen on the shoulders of Jackson.

Jackson isn’t the best coach in the NBA. However, for both the Warriors and Jackson, becoming an elite team or an elite coach is a long process. Jackson can improve on some of his rotations and play-calling, but he is a significant reason why the Warriors have the impressive record that they have.

Jackson has been the perfect coach to get the Warriors out of the dirty doldrums of dysfunction, but is he the right coach to get the Warriors a championship? Only time will tell. As of now, Jackson shouldn’t be fired, especially since the Warriors’ best player, and face of the franchise, is a diehard supporter.