BY: KWAME FISHER-JONES
Former Golden State Warriors head coach and current NBA analyst Mark Jackson’s return to the NBA ranks is long overdue. Whatever transgressions that took place in Golden State and whatever egos that may have been bruised enough time has elapsed and a pardon is now required…………..IMMEDIATELY!
The NBA world has ignored or “misremembered” just how effective the analyst was in his three year stint in the Bay Area. The New York native comprised a 121 – 109 regular season record, guided the Warriors to back-to-back playoff berths (after a five year postseason absence) and more importantly developed a roster of players who were selected outside of the top five. A resume with such production screams, not suggests, the coach has paid his dues and needs to be welcomed back to the NBA coaching fraternity.
Without full knowledge of what exactly transpired in Oakland, no one should use those issues as a case to aid an argument for keeping the analyst from leading a roster. Furthermore, a story is always tilted in the favor of those who are sharing it, ultimately leaving their truth to be aided by the imposed consequence. Therefore, an explanation or justification for Jackson’s dismissal from Warriors’ management is not necessary because the front office handled the situation the way they saw fit.
Rather than debate if the coach warranted being fired, the question now is why has that dismissal become a lifetime ban? From David Blatt to David Fizdale and every other coach that is hired only to be fired, it has become apparent that production is not the reason the former St. John’s point guard is not designing plays.
A simple gaze down memory lane and one will recall just how far Golden State fell from the ranks of relevancy. The once proud franchise made the playoffs twice in the last 20 seasons prior to Action Jackson’s arrival. In that window as many as 11 different coaches bore the burden of attempting to lead the franchise. Such household names as P.J. Carlesimo, Eric Musselman, Mike Montgomery, and Dave Cowens tried and failed to deliver.
“The Dubs” were a train wreck to put it mildly, and the wreckage was in spite of the talent on the roster not because of a lack thereof. Latrell Sprewell, Chris Webber, Antawn Jamison, Jason Richardson, Monta Ellis, and Gilbert Arenas were high quality selections. Yet, the revolving door of Felton Spencer, Adonal Foyal, Vonteego Cummings, and Chris Porter proved to be too much to overcome.
Then a first year coach arrived and things changed. The 16 year NBA veteran immediately saw a familiar talent in a rookie named Klay Thompson and a struggling third year guard named Stephen Curry. Jackson harnessed that talent by investing his years of experience playing alongside shooters Kiki Vandeweghe, Rik Smits, Reggie Miller, Chris Mullin and Travis Best. The former point guard then bestowed the basketball knowledge accumulated while playing under Larry Brown, Rick Pitino, Larry Bird, and Lou Carnesecca.
In just one season Curry’s scoring average went up eight points from the previous year. Meanwhile, Thompson emerged as one of the game’s best two-way players and the shooters’ scoring also went up four points. The franchise made back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time in 23 seasons. “The Splash Brothers” became something special and with each M.V.P awarded and each NBA title won the ousted coach’s foundation became legitimized.
What has made the former coach’s absence so peculiar is the teams that have decided to pass on him. In 2015 the Oklahoma City Thunder fired then head coach Scott Brooks and were looking to take the next step from contender to champion. The organization completely bypassed Jackson (despite pleas by Kevin Durant) and hired the guard’s former teammate Billy Donovan. The Thunder have since lost Durant, to of all teams the Warriors, and have not returned to the NBA Finals.
The Washington Wizards were armed with a young backcourt in John Wall and Bradley Beal desperate for leadership. The organization decided that former Oklahoma City Thunder shot-caller Scott Brooks was the better hire. While the jury is still out on Brooks, a 49 – 33 record at least raises questions about what the current ESPN analyst could have accomplished with Wall and Beal. Especially, in a much weaker Eastern Conference.
Other organizations passed on the former Rookie of the Year and may be regretting that decision. The Sacramento Kings being one of them, and now the franchise rests in the bottom of a woeful Pacific Division. A division that currently has only one team over .500, you get one guess at who that squad is.
The Chicago Bulls are rebuilding and appear to have some solid blocks in Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn. How much would those young players flourish under Jackson’s direction and confidence? The Phoenix Suns should also seriously consider the former Pacific Division foe. Guiding the career of a young Devin Booker, T.J. Warren and Josh Jackson would be like déjà vu. Finally, the possibility of taking the reins in Oklahoma City should be extremely tantalizing to current Thunder G.M. Sam Presti, even after ignoring Jackson once.
A resume that boast 1,296 NBA games played, the development of a two-time MVP and the 1988 Rookie of the Year should not be an afterthought when deciding the next leader of your franchise. Whatever egregious offense that was committed, enough time has elapsed for the man to be forgiven. The issues with former assistant coach Brian Scalabrine do not warrant being excommunicated from a game that Jackson has given so much too.
The NBA season is barely a full quarter old and two coaches (Phoenix Suns’ Earl Watson and Memphis Grizzlies’ David Fizdale) have already been asked to call Tyrone, which is an indictment on the organization more than the coaches they fired.
At some point winning and cultivating the team’s draft picks has to take precedence. There is no doubt the 16 year veteran at times will be difficult to work with, as most former athletes can be, but difficult does not mean impossible. It is also worth noting that a common destination does not always have a common journey. Jackson’s service and previous tour of duty count for more than lines in a Google search and provide proof that condemning the process does not leave the doer unjustified in the end.