In person, Mark Jackson was so convincing.
You would hear about the turmoil embroiling the Golden State Warriors’ coaching staff, with one assistant leaving under less-than-ideal terms and two others getting dismissed within weeks of each other. You would be convinced that the Warriors were crumbling from within, that pretty soon this promising squad would collapse in on itself.
Then the Warriors would come to town and Jackson would resolutely state that everything was fine. Nothing to see here. Business as usual. Then the Warriors would go out and win again.
Finally, the veneer no longer hid the truth as the Warriors fired Jackson on Tuesday, two days after his team was up-ended by the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 7 of their first-round Western Conference playoff series. In a wild understatement, owner Joe Lacob credited Jackson for his “big impact” on the Warriors’ improvement over the last three seasons. Jackson took over a team that had missed the playoffs 16 of the previous 17 seasons and, despite some first-season struggles, led them to a 121-109 overall record. That is quite an impact.
But now Jackson, a questionable tactician who could sell water to a drowning person, is available, and the Los Angeles Lakers have an opening. Their marriage is a crazy idea that just might work.
The Lakers have never wanted for a coach who knows the game. For all their faults, Mike D’Antoni and Mike Brown have shown they know how to coach when given the right collection of talent. Yet the did not possess personalities to deal with the L.A. glare when things went poorly. D’Antoni tried to deflect with self-effacing humor, but it came off as pathetic. Brown was almost too decent a man to get sucked into the falsity Hollywood requires.
The next Lakers coach does not need to be an X’s and O’s savant. He can always hire one of those, the way Jackson did with Mike Malone before their relationship turned frosty. Rather, they need a man who can look Kobe Bryant in the eye and say — genuinely or not — that everything is under control. Nothing to see here. Business as usual.
Granted, Jackson — who lives in L.A. — will be pressed to explain how the situation devolved with the Warriors, but one thing is certain: Jackson was not fired because of his religion. If two people as politically different as vocal Barack Obama supporter Doc Rivers and BYU graduate Danny Ainge could get along in Boston, the grown-ups in Oakland should have been able to get over a little proselytizing.
Jackson’s supposed devoutness was simply another example of his evident hypocrisy. He was reportedly blackmailed by an exotic dancer in a decidedly non-pastor-like episode. He preached accountability and humility to his players, yet bristled at the slightest test of his authority from his coaching staff. He “re-assigned” Brian Scalabrine to the D-League for who knows what, and he fired Darren Erman for recording coaches’ conversations after Erman reportedly felt verbally abused by the head coach.
The hypocrisy did not play well in the Bay Area, but in L.A., where the personalities are as fake as the noses, it will be par for the course. The folks who do the real work will do so behind the scenes, while Jackson can stand in the spotlight and proclaim that the Lakers will be great again — and, as usual, you’ll believe it.