Mark Jackson is a unique case when it comes to the history of NBA head coaching.
There is almost no precedent for his career, which consisted of improving the Golden State Warriors from a laughingstock to a fringe contender in just three seasons, only to get fired, and then never sniff another job.
The reasons why are myriad, some straightforward, others less so. Ryen Russillo of The Ringer broke down all of them in the latest episode of his podcast. H/t to Drew Shiller of NBC Sports Bay Are for help with the transcription:
“When it comes down to Mark Jackson, there a lot of things that are brought up. Really, I think it comes down to this — you are either informed or uninformed. If you are informed, you understand why Mark Jackson doesn’t have a job. If you are uninformed, you are screaming all sorts of accusations for why Mark doesn’t have a job.
“So let’s review. Mark Jackson was there three years with the Golden State Warriors, and he went just over .500. That first year was pretty rough record-wise but if you look at what he did on the whole going from 23 wins to 51 wins, that’s basically the hardest leap to make. They improved by 24 wins his first year to his second year.”
“I had known the Warriors definitely wanted to go in another direction basically that entire season (2013-14). And there are organizations that will not want to fire coaches — even though they want to fire him — (but) they’re like, ‘Can we really fire a guy who just won 51 games when he led us to this improvement?’
“Mark did a couple really positive things. That team played very tough defense … (but) there were a lot of issues the front office had with Mark’s approach to this, even though record-wise were they really going to fire him? I think there were some concerns, ‘Can we really go ahead and do this?’ And they do, and then they win an NBA championship.
“Even though you deserve a lot of credit for (improving the team), cause I really think that’s a hard franchise improvement thing to emulate, but then as soon as you leave you go from losing in the first round to winning and NBA title, that’s almost too much improvement. Like wait a minute? I want to give this guy credit but what the hell just happened?
“So it does get back to relationships.”
Quoting Joe Lacob from 2014:
“Right now, (Kerr) looks great. I think he will be great. And he did the one big thing that I wanted more than anything else from Mark Jackson he just wouldn’t do, in all honesty, which is hire the very best. Carte blanche. Take my wallet. Do whatever it is to get the best assistants there are in the world. Period. End of story. Don’t want to hear it. And (Jackson’s) answer was, ‘Well, I have the best staff.’ No you don’t. And so with Steve, very, very different.
“Part of it was that he couldn’t get along with anybody else in the organization. And look, he did a great job, and I’ll always compliment him in many respects, but you can’t have 200 people in the organization not like you.”
“Let’s also talk about some of the other stuff that’s just — let’s face it — weird,” Russillo continued. “Jackson is a man of faith. I don’t question anyone’s faith. But I know it rubbed some people the wrong way when he was a head coach, but also would find time to get to LA whenever he had a convenient off day (to preach).
“It’s tough to tell a man of faith, ‘Hey you know what — don’t be that interested in God.’ That’s almost an impossible conversation. But if I (said to my boss), ‘Hey, I can’t watch football this weekend because I have this higher calling’ eventually at work they would be like, ‘Hey, you know what man — this is all part of the job, being able to be around.’ This is a very difficult and tough thing to navigate, but his employer at the time being frustrated by it actually makes a little bit of sense.
“Jackson also had some issues off the court where he was caught up in an extortion deal … he also said when asked about Jason Collins (coming out as gay), he said, ‘Not in my locker room.’ So it came off as if he was a homophobe because there’s kind of evidence that he is. And then when he was asked to clear that up, he said, ‘I know his family and I’m praying for them right now.’ Hey man, save your fucking prayers. That’s the kind of stuff that just doesn’t play no matter who you are.
“I have nothing personal against Mark Jackson. He’s one of my favorite college basketball players of all time. (But) I think the most important part of all of this — when I listen to him on the broadcasts with (Jeff) Van Gundy, I think it hurts his chances of getting a job. Van Gundy (mentions) all of these little things (that are smart and revealing). It happens multiple times every single broadcast. Jeff Van Gundy is easily the best NBA analyst right now. Mark doesn’t do any of those things.
“He’ll say, ‘This guy’s not just a great scorer, he’s a great individual.’ OK. ‘So and so doesn’t get enough credit for his shooting.’ OK. It’s very minimal depth. Jeff runs circles around him on the broadcast. It might remind people (owners and general managers) to go, ‘Wait, why is this one guy way better at talking about the game than the other guy.’
“When it comes specifically to Mark Jackson, there are the informed and the uninformed. And hopefully if you’ve resisted this, you’re more informed now.”