I see in the sports news that the Warrior players support Mark Jackson as rumors have been floating around that his job is on the line. Warrior administration should take these player endorsements seriously, but not too seriously. From what I've seen of the Warriors the last three seasons, I have no problem believing that Jackson is a good coach. Note, that I did not say a great coach. No doubt good coaches can become great coaches. Sometimes it takes a while to figure things out. In Mark Jackson, one needs reminding, while he is clearly on the hot seat, that he had no experience coaching on any level before he was hired to perform on the highest level, a mere three years ago and may require some more time before reaching his coaching potential. There have been a lot of coaches that started without any prior coaching experience: Lenny Wilkens, for example, had to suffer losing in Portland before he won a championship in Seattle. It took Jerry Sloan a long time to turn out a winning team. Larry Brown's early teams, the Carolina Cougars and Denver Nuggets (ABA/NBA) played well (like the Warriors) but never won.
So, what is it about Jackson's coaching that troubles me? First: Inconsistent defense and what seems to me a lack of a solid defensive strategy. Jackson came in preaching D. He needs to walk his talk. It's not that the Warriors don't play D, it's that they don't play D consistently. The team's emphasis, as in the past under Don Nelson, remains on the offense, not to the same silly degree as under Nelson, thank god, but still wearisomely there as the Warrior's approach to the game, i.e: let's get up and down the court and out score our opponents. Second: Turnovers. This speaks for itself, a team can't turn the ball over as much as the Warriors do, and expect to win big. Okay, with as much offense as the Warriors have, there's a good chance they'll via for a playoff spot every year. But can they make it to the Western Division Finals? To the NBA Finals. Win the NBA title.
If a team doesn't value the ball and does not play smart aggressive defense, it can only succeed to a modest level, never to greatness.
Klay Thompson recently said, "I love playing for coach. He makes it so fun to go to work everyday. . ." I wonder if any of the San Antonio Spurs have fun at practices? I wonder if the Celtic practices under Doc Rivers were fun. Could Pat Riley's players (Miami and LA Lakers) say they had fun at practices? I'm thinking of all the great coaches: Doctor Jack Ramsey, Phil Jackson, Red Aurebach, Bill Sharman, Alex Hannum. Having played for Sharman and Hannum, I can assure you that practices were not fun, instructive and exhausting, yes, but almost never FUN.
What is the one persistent thread that all great coaches possess? They set the bar high and hold their players accountable for mistakes.
Could it be that to reach the next level and head for greatness, the Warrior players need to have less Fun?
It's not surprising to me that in teaching, on any level, from elementary through college, when students are asked to name their favorite teachers, the easiest teachers, the "fun" teachers were never the ones selected. The teachers they remember as the best were always the ones who demanded the most, teachers they respected, but did not necessarily like.
This blog may sound like a criticism of Coach Mark Jackson. It's not, not entirely. Under his leadership, the Warriors are far more competitive than they have been in recent years. That is to Jackson's credit. But the bar must be higher. Both he and his players have to jump higher to hurdle that bar, and that will take hard, tireless, work, not fun.
Who needs fun in the NBA anyway? I'll take a championship over fun any day.
Let's hear it for J.B. Holmes, having recovered from brain surgery and numerous physical injuries, he won the Wells Fargo Championship. Great shot of his wife planting a $1,242,000 kiss on her husband in this morning's sports page.
Also a nice article about Gregg Popovich teaching WNBA All-Star Becky Hammon about coaching. Are we talking a female NBA coach in the future?
A poem about golf by me from my latest book of Poetry: Sweat: New and Collected Poems About Sports
To George and Gary,my teammates and golfers
and all other friends that I've bad-mouthed
for playing a sport I ridiculed, I apologize.
I'm older now. I have learned to appreciate
a sport played in silence, where the slightest
sound from the gallery is frowned upon, where,
if it were possible, birds would be forbidden
to sing while a player is teeing off or measuring
a putt. Gentlemen, I'm no longer enamored
of crowd noises, the bellowing of athletes
drawing attention to themselves, the circus
acts at half-time, rockets firing into the sky
at football games, of loud music, loud fans
rising around and around the stadium
like giant second hands. I yearn for the peace
of grassy dog-legs right or left, the silent
sandtraps, wind whispering through the trees.
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.