June 10, 2011

You Talk About Mark Jackson...

So what do we know about Mark Jackson, other than that he knows how to butter up a 'cob and sweet-talk a Guber?

He probably won't get as mad as Nellie would about five-second back to the basket violations.

He's married to a none-hit wonder.

He was a damn fine player in his day, a kind of Jason Kidd without the rebounds, handed out the third-most assists in NBA history, and is generally acknowledged to have been a totally awesome floor impresario to boot. It's always a little bit fatuous to try to infer a potential coach's philosophy and his favored strategies and tactics from his playing days—baseball fans will immediately think of Joe Morgan, whose huffy, wrong normativeness stands in stark contrast to his transcendent results on the diamond—but I, at least, feel slightly if irrationally comforted knowing that Jackson was a pass-first guy.

And, uh...hmm...that's basically all I got. But as Hayes mentioned to me over dinner last night, we have hundreds of hours of footage of Jackson grunting out opinions from which to form impressionistic worries (hey, it's what we do here).

On ESPN and ABC, Jackson always struck me as primarily concerned with coming off as very loud and very certain. As I recall, he especially enjoys saying the phrase, "The game of basketball." He generally talks tough and takes the position of precedented old-school orthodoxy that doesn't really make anyone think. He's not afraid to say what he thinks, of course, but his comments are never really robustly contrarian or particularly well formulated, and his phraseology leaves a lot to be desired. With all this said, his early comments as Warriors head coach are nothing particularly inspiring, either. Am I reading too much into the light-hearted riffs of a color commentator?

This reliable traditionalism made him a fine foil for the shrewish Stan Van Gundy and his progressive twitterings, but it remains to be seen how it works in the locker room and in the huddle. I know I get rankled by the platitudinous boss, but professional sports, like AA meetings, are where slogans are at their strongest. Professional comity notwithstanding, and assuming the Warriors don't trade Ellis, I can for some reason just taste the impending rancor between Jackson and Ellis, possibly stemming from a latent and complex ontological disagreement about the point guard position.

At three years (and $6,000,000), we'll have plenty of opportunities to worry over his decisions. I know nothing about Mike Malone, but he was valued and valuable defensive guru in both Cleveland and New Orleans, a man in the mold of Tom Thibodeau, and may in the end be more important to lasting Golden State success than Jackson ever is. At the very least, we should be thankful that the Warriors didn't give the head coaching job to Mike Breen. Woof.