Commentary: How Does a Winning Coach Like Mark Jackson Get Canned?

Mark Jackson

Commentary: How Does a Winning Coach Like Mark Jackson Get Canned?

Warriors owner ignores flashy win-loss record and looks for someone to lead a good team.

Published May 7, 2014

Must be something extra in the Zinfandel on the West Coast, because that’s the only explanation for the craziness that has come from some of the NBA teams out there.

Think about it: The Los Angeles Lakers had their coach walk (or did Kobe Bryant push Mike D’Antoni off the plank?); the NBA booted Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling from its billionaires club; and the Golden State Warriors, a team fresh off its best season since 1991-92, fired their coach.

Two of the things above made sense, and the firing of Mark Jackson as Warriors coach was not one of them.

Team owner Joe Lacob talked Tuesday about difficult decisions he had to make, and Lacob, a rich man who misplaced his candor, applauded Jackson for the improvements in the franchise. The latter was praise Jackson deserved. For he coached the Warriors to a 51-31 record, so what more improvement could the coach have produced?

Coaching pro basketball is an ugly business, but a man takes on the job with much zeal. While he’s paid a handsome salary, the man knows, deep within, that he’s a lousy stretch of basketball from joining the jobless.

And Jackson has.

Yet “why” seems like a question Lacob must answer.

For the Lakers, D’Antoni left just a step ahead of the sheriff. He should have been fired a season earlier. The decision the New York Knicks made in firing Mike Woodson isn’t anything that needs justification, either. A 37-45 record speaks loudly for how well Woodson coached the Knicks.

Jackson’s firing, however, does need justification, and the empty platitudes that Lacob served up to the media and the public can’t stand on their merits. He had to have a deeper reason behind his decision.

Sure, some critics questioned Jackson’s heavy-handed decision to part ways with a couple of his assistant coaches, but how can that trump his team’s 51-31 record?

Good coaches aren’t found everywhere in the NBA. Front offices search hard for the flavor of the season, and all too often they come away with nothing different than what they had.

Ask yourself this: Were Kobe and the Lakers any better with D’Antoni than they were with Mike Brown?

That’s the question Lacob will have to ask himself as he launches his search for a successor to Jackson. The list of candidates will be long, and none of them will arrive with much thought about whether Lacob, whose plans to fire Jackson were leaked weeks ago, will panic and make another unwise decision.

Wealth doesn’t ensure a man has intelligence. We should have learned that truth from the Donald Sterling saga, which unfolded just south of San Francisco in recent days.

It takes no Einstein to look at a team’s record and see the coach has the program on solid ground. No reason to fiddle with something that is working so well.

Tell that to Lacob and the other impatient owners of sports franchises. To have a coach like Mark Jackson is to have a coach who can win games. He’s a sure bet, but can his replacement be?

That’s what Lacob will be asked to figure out. As for Jackson, he shouldn’t stress it. Some NBA executive will see what he did with the Warriors and come courting him.

That exec might be someone else whose last name is “Jackson.” What do ya say to that, Phil?

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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(Photo: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Written by Justice B. Hill


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