Mark Jackson’s team took a vote. It was simple: yes or no. Quit the first-round playoff series? Or, continue? For sure, Clippers owner Donald Sterling hit a nerve with his racist diatribe, though his casual racism wasn’t a surprise. But the timing was awful. Instead of questions regarding matchups, strategy, and defense, the series was hijacked. All of a sudden sports reporters, both black and white, many of whom had ignored Sterling’s vile behavior, were asking questions about race to players who were desperate to win a title.
What to do next? The Warriors and the Clippers both had meetings and it had nothing to do with CP3 and Lob City on one side, and Steph Curry and Klay Thompson on the other.
Two years earlier, Mark Jackson was hired, his first head coaching job. He inherited a team with young, homegrown talent. Steph Curry, drafted in 2009, was starting his third season. Klay Thompson, drafted in 2011, had just finished his rookie season. Draymond Green was still in college. Monta Ellis was the Warriors most popular player. Mark Jackson inherited Kwame Brown.
In Jackson’s first year as an NBA head coach, he failed on his promise to make the Warriors a defensive team; they were nearly last in the league. They couldn’t stop the three-ball. Their defensive rating sucked. But they could score. The Warriors were top-10 in field goal percentage, three-point percentage, assists, and blocks. Monta Elllis was the Warriors leading scorer before he was traded.. David Lee added 20.1 points. Steph Curry had ankle injuries and only played 23 games, averaging 14.7 ppg. Klay Thompson averaged 12.5 ppg.
The Warriors won 23 games in Jackson’s first season. It was a strike-shortened year so only 66 games were played.
The next year Mark Jackson’s promise about defense began to take hold. The Warriors were 14th in defensive rating and 19th in points allowed. Warrior ball produced. Golden State was 4th in pace and 7th in points. Steph Curry was the leading scorer, 22.9 ppg. Klay Thompson added 16.6 ppg. David Lee’s 18.5 gave the Warriors depth. Plus two rookies joined the party: Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green. With the exception of Lee, the Warriors young talent was their own draft picks.
In Mark Jackson’s 3rd year, the Warriors won 51 games and had the 10th best defense in the league. They were 4th in defensive rating, 3rd in 3point defense and they took 2,037 threes. They entered the playoffs with extreme optimism. And then came the Donald Sterling racist audio and that vote. Continue playing? Or make a stand against racism?
But here’s the question that no one could really answer. What would quitting change? Could it swallow the vile words out of Donald Sterling’s mouth and return them to dust? Not, hardly. Both the Warriors and Clippers decided to gather the troops and continue the series. Let rookie commissioner Adam Silver handle Sterling.
It was an epic series. The Clippers won Game 1 in Oracle. The Warriors won Game 2. Back in L.A., the Warriors won Game 3 and the Clippers blew the Warriors out in Game 4. The next two games were split which lead to a game 7.
Unbeknown to everyone, it would be Mark Jackson’s last game as an NBA head coach.
Steph Curry played nearly every minute of the game. Although he went to the line 16 times, he only took 7 threes and his 41% field goals wasn’t impressive, neither was his 124 Defensive rating despite 33 points. Klay Thompson only made 4 out of 11 shots and also played horrible defense as did most of the Warriors. The Warriors made nearly 50% of their shots, and 56% from three. But they lost. Why? The Clippers shot 55% and Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and JJ Redick all scored 20+ points.
The last play of Mark Jackson’s coaching career was anticlimactic. Steph Curry drained a 27 footer and then fouled Darren Collison. Afterward, Jackson said (in reference to the Donald Sterling melodrama), “We did a good job handling what could go down as the toughest moment in league history, as far as what we had to go through.” Jackson added he wasn’t worried about his job security. “I don’t get caught up in it. I’m totally confident and I have total faith that I’m going to be fine.”
Steph Curry added he would be “shocked” if Mark Jackson was let go.
Three days later Mark Jackson was fired. Joe Lacob, Warriors owner, made sure to drag Jackson in the mud once he was out the door. “He did a good job and I’ll always compliment him in many respects, but you can’t have 200 people in the organization not like you.”
Is that the reason Mark Jackson can’t get a head coaching job? People’s feelings? Jackson’s a coach who took his team to consecutive playoff appearances, and who developed Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. But Joe Lacob’s insane need to have the last word put Jackson in his place on purpose. A lot of folk were listening.
Since Jackson lost his Warriors job in 2014 there have been 52 coaches hired. Lloyd Pierce. Lionel Hollins. Kenny Atkinson. Jacque Vaughn. Steve Clifford. James Borrego. Fred Hoiberg. Jim Boylen. David Blatt. Tyronn Lue. Larry Drew. John Beilein. J.B. Bickerstaff (three times). Michael Malone. Nick Nurse. Stan Van Gundy. Dwane Casey. Steve Kerr. Mike D’Antoni. Nate McMillan. Byron Scott. Luke Walton (twice). Frank Vogel (twice). David Fizdale (twice). Jason Kidd. Taylor Jenkins. Mike Budenholzer. Flip Saunders. Sam Mitchell. Ryan Saunders. Alvin Gentry. Derek Fisher. Kurt Rambis. Jeff Hornacek. Tom Thibodeau (twice). Billy Donovan. Scott Skiles. Steve Clifford. Earl Watson. Jay Triano. Igor Kokoskov. Monty Williams. Tyrone Corbin. George Karl. Dave Joerger. Scott Brooks.
In cancel culture, there is no greater coaching example than Mark Jackson. When the Knicks decided to go with Tom Thibodeau as head coach instead of native New Yorker and former Knicks Mark Jackson, he was once again denied and it felt curious. Jackson was Rookie of the Year in 1988 and an All-Star in 1989. He is 4th All-time in assists. The Mark Jackson rule was initiated because of how he used to dribble the ball with his back to the basket when guarded. He used to back smaller point guards in the post. The rule gives guards a five minutes max of dribbling when below the free-throw line.
The coach Mark Jackson has experience guiding young talented players into their better selves. He can guide a team, above expectations, to the playoffs. His star players were devoted to him.
Is Mark Jackson worse than the 52 coaches hired after he was let go by the Warriors? The NBA is saying yes. You canceled Mark.