By Joshua M Hicks (@jhicks042)
Prior to the NBA’s restart, and as it has unfolded, ESPN NBA broadcaster/analyst Mark Jackson has made it known on numerous occasions he wants to coach again in the league and his name has floated among candidates for some possible openings.
Many of us may have gotten used to Jackson working with Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, but he shouldn’t be limited to the announcer’s area of the sideline if he doesn’t want to be. Jackson is a rightful candidate for any opening and possible NBA opening right now.
With a career record well above .500 (121-109) after three years with the Golden State Warriors, three years that indeed played a role in developing this past decade’s lone true dynasty, Jackson is experienced and very well respected throughout the league — not just with players, but also with other coaches and analysts.
Warriors superstar Stephen Curry played under Jackson during those years, first developing into a star during that tenure. Steph spoke on the All The Smoke podcast this year and highlighted what made Jackson so special as a coach.
“The biggest difference is for Mark [Jackson] we were young and unproven and had to create an identity. Create an edge for us that gave us the confidence to walk on the floor and we could be anything on any given night,” Curry said.
“He is an unbelievable motivator in terms of the way he can articulate himself and give some type of fuel on a nightly basis. He would come in the locker and we would talk about X’s and O’s, but then we would talk about life for five minutes. For young guys like us at the time, we needed all that edge in competitiveness and a guy that would go to war for you in the media.
“Sometimes it was to the detriment of [Warriors management], we were all grinding to get to that next level and he helped us get there. There is no secret I didn’t want him fired when it went down with Bob Meyers, Joe Lacob, and Peter Guber. They wanted to make a decision and brought in Steve [Kerr].”
Andre Iguodala has stated similar sentiments, going so far as stating on the Breakfast Club that Jackson was blackballed from the NBA.
There are currently three NBA teams that are outright looking for head coaches (New Orleans Pelicans, Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets) with a couple more teams, still active in the playoff bubble, that reportedly are on the bubble with their current coaches and may make changes this off-season (Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers).
Mark Jackson could be a good fit for either of those five teams, here are the reasons why:
Brooklyn Nets – The Nets have revamped their entire roster from last season with the additions of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan to this current playoff team in the bubble with Jamal Crawford also in the mix. But they currently lack a coach that knows how to coach stars while also developing talent.
Ty Lue has been reportedly considered the front runner for the job due to his relationship with Irving and his championship experience. However, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times, Jackson is a candidate that stands out to the Nets.
Jackson fits the bill as a players’ coach, and he has been known to build strong relationships with players, especially superstars. The Nets are trying hard to shake off their little brother status in New York basketball and with their latest acquisitions they can rise to another level in 2021, but they need a coach that they can respect and truly push them. As a defensive-minded coach, Jackson can also fill a defensive void that the Nets need filled in order to develop into true Eastern Conference contenders.
Chicago Bulls – The Bulls have made effective front office changes that seem to benefit for the better, especially in the light of new vice president Arturas Karnisovas getting rid of Jim Boylen.
Recently, Karnisovas appeared on the Mully and Haugh Show on 670 The Score and stated that the core of his team is great. But one of Karnisovas’ emphasizing points of change is the improvement of player development. Players like Coby White can learn from Jackson as their coach, it may even lead to him becoming an elite point guard like Curry, a possibility that doesn’t look too wild after the progression he showed the league post all-Star break and prior to the league’s hiatus in March.
Jackson has history of taking talent and developing it to a point where they become a deep playoff team — he had influence on the drafting of Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry while GSW also acquired Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut via trade, creating the ingredients that ultimately shaped the franchise into winners, a roster that won a championship under Steve Kerr and set a new record for regular season wins before Kevin Durant played one game for the team. For a Chicago team that’s rebuilding and needs an identity, Jackson can help aid a tough identity the Bulls need, one that can ultimately be the key to getting top-tier free agents to the franchise.
New Orleans Pelicans – Much like the Bulls, the Pelicans are in a similar situation with a coaching gap in between some promising talent on the court and a respected and recently hired front office acquisition (David Griffin) running the team.
On the fly the team maintained promise for itself even after getting rid of Anthony Davis, getting half the Lakers’ young talent in the process and being able to draft Zion Williamson in the 2019 draft. But the team clearly regressed in the bubble, Alvin Gentry was fired and a replacement is needed.
Right away, Jackson can help develop the Pels’ talented young core and give them an identity both offensively and defensively. Yes, questions still remain with Williamson’s health, but if he can commit to changing his body to stay healthy and continue to progress, between him, Lonzo Ball and all-star Brandon Ingram the NO can be made an exciting place for future free agents to consider.
Philadelphia 76ers – The Sixers’ future is up in the air, filled with uncertainty regarding the job security of head coach Brett Brown and the status of starring Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.
If the Sixers decide to move on from Brown, Jackson can easily slide in to potentially turn around a successful, yet dysfunctional team. If the Sixers keep both Simmons and Embiid, Jackson’s offensive style fits the Sixers roster, and his emphasis on defense can make a huge impact on the team. Sixers GM Elton Brand already has a familiarity with Jackson dating back to his playing days where he faced Jackson on numerous occasions in the former point guard’s last years in the league. If Brown is beyond figuring out the city of Brotherly Love, maybe a former floor general who currently sits within the top 10 in assists historically can create effective change.
Houston Rockets – It’s been speculated that Mike D’Antoni will be out as the Rockets head coach after this year and Darryl Morey may not return as GM. If both scenarios become true, dependent on the new GM, Jackson should get fair consideration.
The Rockets have a superstar back-court that can electrify you offensively with quality shooters and core players. Jackson may want to bring a more deliberate offensive style to Houston that may not fit with James Harden and Russell Westbrook’s preference of play, but if there’s one thing anyone who observes the Rockets agrees they need more of is defense and Jackson can help the Rockets go further in that development, which could mean more wins for them.
Joshua M. Hicks is a Senior Writer for WARR Media