Mark Jackson has not served as a coach in the NBA since 2014. Despite recording 121 wins and 109 losses over the course of three regular seasons, and making the playoffs twice in three tries, nobody has given Jackson a second chance.
As a result the 55-year-old was relegated to broadcasting duties on ABC/ESPN, often commentating while far more inferior coaches botch their opportunities with promising young teams.
Recently, 16-year NBA vet and former Golden State Warriors big man Al Harrington spoke with Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson and told him he genuinely believed that Jackson was being blackballed.
“Obviously he’s been blackballed,” Harrington replied.
“It’s just no way around it. I’m not sure who it was, but somewhere in that organization and I think Jerry West was there and I’m sure he has a lot of clout within sports period and I’m not saying it’s him but somebody blackballed him.
“Because it just doesn’t make sense because he actually was a good coach, you know, there’s coaches that’s gotten situations and coached for three years and won you know, 35 games, 40 games, and they’re still resurfacing either as an assistant coach or as another head coach.”
It is difficult to argue with Harrington’s central point. Much worse coaches with significantly more notable failures than Jackson’s have had very long and successful careers in the NBA.
This past week, current Warriors star Draymond Green appeared on The Brownprint podcast with Cari Champion and spoke glowingly of the role Jackson played in his development as a player.
“I also had a coach in Mark Jackson who told me from the very beginning, ‘Listen, I want you to come here as the same Draymond I’ve been watching on TV for years,” he said.
“I want you to be an animal, be a dog and be a leader. I don’t care who is in front of you, I don’t care who has more money than you, who has more status in the league than you — I want you to come in and be the same leader that you’ve been your whole life.’
“And I’m forever thankful for Mark Jackson because to hear that from your head coach as a second-round pick, it’s almost like a stamp of approval. And I think a lot of guys don’t necessarily get that coming into the league. I was very fortunate to have Mark Jackson tell me that from the very beginning.”
Andre Iguodala said something similar last year.
“We were huge fans of Mark, he was the ultimate player’s coach and was one of my favorite coaches of all time,” he said.
“But once they want you out, they’re gonna find something.”
There have long been rumors around the league that Jackson’s deeply religious views and anti-gay positions led to his current status.
Iguodala alluded to that during the interview.
“One particular issue from what I heard was his views on gender, marriage, or what the Bible said on your sexuality,” he said.
“Our head of our business, Rick Welts… He was a genius in business and celebrated as one of the top execs in sports on the business side. He’s gay, so there were conflicts with that that were widespread.”
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While it’s certainly possible that Jackson’s faith and stance on homosexuality has made him a toxic potential hire, one can’t help but wonder then why that hasn’t slowed down his broadcasting career. More likely than not, if anyone truly believed in Jackson as a great coach, something like his off-the-court views would not get in the way.
What it probably comes down to is how much the Warriors won as soon as he left.
Team owner Joe Lacob in 2014 pointed out that his squad had all the pieces necessary for success – they just needed to be utilized correctly.
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“I think [Kerr] will be great,” he said at the time. “And he did the one big thing that I wanted more than anything else from Mark Jackson he just wouldn’t do, in all honesty, which is hire the very best.”
That being said, even Kerr has come out and publicly credited Jackson with paving the way for him to succeed.
“When I was in TV, I was doing Warriors games for years; every year they were one of the worst defensive teams in the league,” Kerr said at one point. “Mark came in and made a focus of being a tough defensive-minded team.”
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“[Jackson] set the table for a lot of what’s happening now,” Kerr said in a separate interview. “He deserves a lot of credit.”
When the NBA season ended, a number of teams needed new head coaches. Less than a week removed, the number of vacancies diminished dramatically. Jackson never found himself in contention for anything.
Will he ever coach again? It’s hard to say. But if he didn’t get a close look this year, it’s hard to see him getting another at any point in the foreseeable future.
A graduate from the University of Texas, Anthony Amador has been credentialed to cover the Houston Texans, Dallas Cowboys, San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks and high school games all over the Lone Star State. Currently, his primary beats are the NBA, MLB, NFL and UFC.