The Mark Jackson debate is over, and there should be no more beating of this dead horse.
Speaking at some boring venture capitalist meeting last week, Joe Lacob decided to finally dish on Jackson:
I think [Kerr] will be great. And he did the one big thing that I wanted more than anything else from Mark Jackson (that) 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 that 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.
You can’t have a staff underneath you that isn’t that good. And if you’re going to get better, you’ve got to have really good assistants. You’ve got to have people that can be there to replace you. We all know this from all of our companies. It’s … Management 101. A lot of people on the outside couldn’t understand it when we (fired Jackson).
Joe Lacob also talked about Jackson’s personality:
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.
During a sermon at his church on Sunday, Jackson fired back:
[Lacob] said I was good for nothing, an owner that knew me for three years and spent a couple of minutes around me, an owner that had the audacity to say that 200 folks don’t like me in the business.
Unless Adrian Wojnarowski or Tim Kawakami write the tell-all of the Mark Jackson Era, everything that we need to know has already come out. Perhaps surprisingly, it turns out that all basic assumptions were correct.
Mark Jackson was hired in 2011 alongside Mike Malone, who was described by Joe Lacob in an interview with Tim Kawakami at the time as a tremendously important hire:
I could go on and on and on… Only one thing [Jackson] didn’t possess, your X’s and O’s, and frankly, we got another guy that was a helluva candidate, Michael Malone, very, very impressive guy… After I interviewed Malone on I think it was Sunday, I sat there I said, ‘I love this guy, wow he’s better than I even was led to believe.’
I sat there, and I had it even in the back of my mind, but it came to me, I said, ‘what we’ve got to do, let’s get both of ‘em. Let’s get Mark Jackson and let’s get this guy, who’s frankly the second-best candidate out there. If we can.’
When Mike Malone left after just a year to become the Sacramento Kings head coach, Jackson did not replace him with a well-regarded, or even regarded, assistant. It is quite telling that Malone and Jackson would supposedly go weeks without speaking, or that the only assistant from last year that currently has a job is Darren Erman, who was fired after he got caught secretly recorded coaches meetings. The assistants Jackson had conflicts with still have important NBA roles, while the ones who did not challenge him do not.
In contrast, Steve Kerr hired Alvin Genry and Ron Adams, two of the five best assistants in the league, and their impact on the players has been notable. Andrew Bogut—who never liked Jackson—has been effusive in his praise of the changes on offense. Harrison Barnes—who frustratingly barely developed (something good assistant coaches really help young players with!) his first two years in the league—has said he was put in terrible positions on offense last year. Even Steph Curry has waxed poetic about the help he is getting on defense from assistant Ron Adams, as he’s finally trusted to defend his own position.
Jackson always seemed to rub people the wrong way. Besides Malone and Erman, he also reassigned assistant coach Brian Scalabrine to the D-League team. While conflict between assistant and head coaches in the NBA isn’t unheard of, firing two assistants weeks before the playoffs is quite strange.
There’s also the little matter of Jackson being a black, conservative Christian, former player, while Joe Lacob is a fairly liberal Jew from the Silicon Valley world. Jackson’s views were shared by much of the team last season, but it was always unclear how much of it was true and how much of it was because who their boss was. Somehow I doubt that the entire team is going to pregame chapel this season, and we’ve certainly heard fewer references to God teamwide. Even if Jackson and his players were in lockstep, their views ran counter to the rest of the Bay Area’s…and the rest of the Warriors 200 employees.
I could write 1,000 more words of summary, but what’s important is that I could have written almost all of this last May. Maybe without as much certainty, but I could’ve told the same tale. Each subsequent round of leaks, even non-anonymous ones attached to the names “Joe Lacob” and “Mark Jackson,” even ones that result in an apology, only tell us things we already knew, or things that were widely assumed to be true. There wasn’t an untold story here, but simply what we all pieced together from what we saw and what leaked out over the course of three seasons.
No, the true story was in front of us all along. Mark Jackson was a talented motivator who was the right coach for the time, a coach whose self-belief was necessary before Joe Lacob and Warriors management could develop their own. But his limited tactical knowledge, refusal to hire competent assistant coaches, and alienation of the decision-makers within the Warriors organization meant his ability to make the Warriors better ran into a ceiling after the 2012-13 season. We knew it at the time, and we know it now.
So let’s stop talking about it.