Nearly all NBA fans were shocked to see that Mark Jackson was fired Tuesday.
For anybody that wasn’t astonished, the reason was that rumors had been circulating that if the Golden State Warriors lost to the Los Angeles Clippers in their seven-game series, Jackson would be gone.
Indeed, despite taking the Clippers to seven games as the underdogs that weren’t expected to win, Jackson was let go.
The question that everyone is wondering is why.
In his three years with Golden State, Jackson led his team to consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 2006-08, back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time since 1990-92 and two straight seasons with 45 or more wins for the first time since 1975-77. This season, the Warriors finished 51-31.
In a world where the head coach becomes a scapegoat, the Warriors actually made dramatic improvements under Jackson. Were the Warriors a championship-caliber team yet? No. Could they have performed better this season? Of course. But most championship teams don’t become great overnight.
All in all, Jackson proved himself to be a solid coach in the NBA in his time with Golden State after a successful career as a player. And it seemed like he was pointing the Warriors in the right direction.
Like many times seen before, management was vague with reasons for firing Jackson, stating the team wanted to go in a different direction. Well, the team was winning with Jackson. So, by logical reasoning, if you want to go in a different direction, you want to lose then?
Of course, days later, the real reasons began to surface. Golden State Owner Joe Lacob indicated personality conflicts in the front office seemed to put the target on Jackson’s back.
Jackson lived in L.A. rather than the Bay Area and had tension with a couple assistant coaches. Brian Scalabrine was reassigned (or demoted) to the D-League on March 25 with Jackson citing a “difference in philosophies” as the reason. Just weeks later on April 5, Golden State fired Darren Erman, who allegedly recorded conversations during coaches’ meetings and discussions between players and coaches without their permission.
Overall, Jackson didn’t seem to have relationships with the owners or front office, but what I hear is just a bunch of excuses. These issues seem childish. If these reports are true, the Warriors’ management is simply controlling and manipulating things it shouldn’t.
Can it? Definitely. It’s Lacob’s franchise and instances like these aren’t extremely uncommon in the politics of the sporting world. However, the goal is to win. Clearly getting along and proving superiority was more important to Lacob. It wouldn’t be to me.
Now, Golden State is in search of a new coach, which on its own could cause drama and destroy the team chemistry that was in place. Then add to that mix that virtually every player supported Jackson and wanted him to remain in charge.
One of the most vocal players was All-Star Stephan Curry, who advocated to keep Jackson. Personally, I’d be hard-pressed to let go of a coach who has that much support from his players, had his players buying into his system and was finding success.
In addition, according to Lacob, Curry knew that Jackson would be dismissed ahead of time. It seems all the players knew, as TV analysts reported Mark Jackson telling his team “don’t play for me, play for you” in a timeout during the Warriors-Clippers series.
That would seem to me like a bit of a distraction to players during the playoffs to have to worry about the future of their coach. All you want is the players to focus on the moment and the task at hand, not the future.
But per usual, it’s not the players’ opinions that necessarily matter. The decisions are left to management and it can do what it wants, for just about whatever reason it wants.