You got to hand it to Joe Lacob. By hiring Mark Jackson, a terrific NBA player, but a man who hasn't coached basketball on any level, he certainly put his imprimatur on the 2011/12 Golden State Warrior team. It's his baby now. Had this hire been a last minute three point shot that won a game, Lacob could have run down the court, bent over, cradling (as the image suggests) very large cajones in his arms, no doubt drawing a substantial fine from the NBA office.
I watched Mark Jackson's introduction this afternoon on television. Jackson certainly doesn't lack confidence. I can see what attracted the Warriors to him. But as important as confidence is, in my opinion, it's only as good as one's ability to coach. I found that out in 1971 when I retired from playing and was hired by the Carolina Cougars of the ABA to be their head coach. Like Jackson, I had no experience other than my own ten years of playing under a couple of extremely fine coaches: Alex Hannum and Bill Sharman. I felt I had learned a great deal from them and that knowledge would hold me in good sted.
As a coach, I failed badly. That doesn't mean that there hasn't been inexperienced coaches who have been successful, and that Jackson won't be. I truly hope he will. Every Warrior fan is wishing nothing but the best for him. But evoking the names of great coaches he played under, does not substitute for coaching experience. If Jackson had been an assistant to some of those coaches, that would be something much more substantial upon which to base an opinion. And being a TV color commentator provides little in the way of coaching experience. In fact it can be detrimental as it is far easier to critique from the outside than it is from inside the locker room. Jackson said he will surround himself with quality experienced assistants and that is wise. But the bottom line is that this will be a Mark Jackson team, not a Mark Jackson assistants' team.
I was happy to see Jerry West sitting in the front row during the television presentation. To hear that he was involved in the hire is a good omen.
I'm not sure if I'd been Jackson, I'd have predicted a playoff team for next year, but that's the confidence thing that Jackson possesses in abundance speaking. Jackson must know, as everybody in the Bay Area already knows, that there will be personnel changes and additions before the Warriors have any chance of making the playoffs.
There was only one question about his future players. A reporter asked about Monta Ellis. Jackson's affirmation of the young star (I look forward to coaching this fine young man) contradicted rumors in the news this morning that the Warriors were considering trading Monta. That struck me as odd. And what about Bierdrens? What about other key players. If these reporters had been from Jackson's home state of New York, Mark wouldn't have gotten off quite so easy. Instead our kinder and gentler news men and women wound up throwing out softballs aplenty, that Mark kept hitting out of the park with his confidence bat.
I would have preferred less personality and more substance. "More matter and less art," Queen Gertrude says to Polonius in the play Hamlet. But the second Mark opened his mouth today, he set the ground rules by which he is going to be judged. Confidence and Leadership. Clearly now Mark Jackson must walk his talk.
As for my take on the hire? I'm an X's and O's guy.
Mark Jackson played with the Knicks and Patrick Ewing. So here are both referenced in a lovely little poem that has really very little to do with basketball and everything to do with it.
We Still Have Basketball, Sara by Lisa Olstein
That one long year we moved
in and out of each other's rooms
on the pick and roll, preferring a running game
to the slow-down of half-court. If I said
your tendency was to choke in the clutch,
you might say mine was to look for fresh legs
down the stretch. Coming up against
the trading deadline and playoff divisions,
we broke down over technical fouls,
illegal defense violations. Now, whenever
the Knicks have a big game, I know where you are
and if they're playing the Celtics, you know
where I am too, and Sara, when I heard
about Ewing's broken wrist, I was sorry
I ever gloated over his bad knees.
What my musings are all about...
Blogging might well be the 21st century's form of journaling. As a writing teacher, I have always advised my students to keep a daily journal as a way of organizing their thoughts for future writing projects, a discipline I have unfortunately never consistently practiced myself. By blogging, I might finally be able to follow my own good advice.
The difference between journaling and blogging is that the blogger opens his or her writing to the public, something journal- writers are usually reluctant to do. I am not so reticent.
The trick for me will be to avoid cluttering the internet with more blather, something none of us need more of. If I stick to subjects I know: sports and literature, I believe I can avoid that pitfall. I can't promise that I'll not stray from time to time to comment on ancillary subjects, but I will make every attempt to be interesting and perhaps even insightful.