Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Is Announcer Mark Jackson Golden State’s Savior Or Another Bad Decision?

One of the smoothest, charismatic voices in all of sports is the epitome of what you want in a color commentator. That is even more apparent when you hear him side-by-side with Jeff Van Gundy during the NBA Finals.

“Hand down, man down!” is one of the more famous lines that Mark Jackson utters with a sonic booming-like force into the microphone.

But, how suave will the former, seventeen-year NBA point guard be at his first attempt on the sidelines?

Jackson will take his charming, captivating personality with him to Oakland, CA where he will begin the new life he’s been dreaming about for years: being the head coach of the Golden State Warriors. Owner Joe Lacob signed the former St. John’s standout to a three-year, $6 million contract with the team having control of his option for a fourth season.

The move is a bold one for the owner entering his first full year as the team’s main provider, given that Jackson’s history is, well, undocumented.

He has never been a coach on any level (not even as an assistant) and is very raw when it comes to the new position he has been given. As bright and innovative as he is, Jackson does not have any prior qualifications that would merit any indication if this is a great hire or not. The only perception that the Bay Area will have to go on is his history as a player, his understanding of the game as an announcer, and belief that the Golden State front office is making the right decision.

This experiment could be a formula that blows up back into the Warriors’ face or a potion that mixes into triumph for the organization down the road.

There is no doubting the basketball expertise of this wonderful point guard. Jackson was the team general of numerous teams during his playing days and his teammates entrusted him to lead them on a winning path (fifteen playoff appearances, 131 post season games played). Point guards also tend to head in the direction of coaching after they retire with many ending up being successful; coaches and former point guards Doc Rivers, Scott Brooks, Monty Williams, and Avery Johnson can attest to that.

He’s also learned from some of the best head coaches prior to his retirement. Jerry Sloan, Lenny Wilkens, Larry Brown, and Pat Riley all have had superb pedigrees and were big influences on Jackson when he played for them. One would decipher that he was able to soak up not only great knowledge from these men, but the little nuances and intangibles needed to wring the most ability and effort of each player.

If any player has the right pedigree to be a coach based off their playing career, it’s got to be Jackson. Yet, the problem is that being a great, respected point guard during a career doesn’t always equal a stand out career as a head coach.

One big fear with the 46-year-old new Warriors’ coach is that all the flash and pizzazz of his charisma may be only talk and no production. Another coach from the other side of the Bay Bridge had a similar background and entered his coaching term with a magnetic personality that enamored the public, but ended up leaving just as soon as he came on board.

No one could doubt the type of force Mike Singletary was during his tenure as a superstar linebacker in Chicago. He’s a Hall Of Fame player who talked a big game and made fans believers that he was the answer to return the 49ers to greatness. In the end, his words could not equate for his lack of coaching intelligence and inability to improve the team as he left with an overall 18-22 record with no playoff appearances.

Jackson is eerily similar to Singletary, in that he is a colorful man with the type of impressive linguistic skills that can make any human being fall in love and adore him. He will no doubt say the right things and get the fans of the Bay Area behind him, but it’s all about performance for the die-hard fans of the Bay Area, who are desperate to see their team get back to the promise land that is the NBA playoffs.

That task in itself will be a daunting one for their new head coach. He inherits a team that that improved with ten more wins in 2010-11 from 2009-10, but remains to have red flags and question marks throughout their young, developing roster. Both he and the front office will have to examine possible trades of key players, selecting the right pieces in the draft, and fishing for a stud free agent that can make an impact on the team.

Jackson will no doubt win the Bay Area over with his sweet talk, but it is the job of directing the Warriors to prosperity that will be his most difficult challenge yet.

While it’s hard to get clarity if this first time coach is the right fit for one of the youngest teams in the NBA, the Warriors are on a journey that is fresh to everyone involved. With a majority owner getting his first full-term with the team, new entrants to their front office, and a team whose average age is 26; Golden State appears set to build from the ground up at every key area of the franchise.

Jackson is used to providing color commentary for the NBA Finals, but now he’ll hope to be getting commented on in future championship series while coaching his new squad.

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