Mark Jackson, who led the Golden State Warriors to their first successive winning seasons in two decades and who was admired by his players, was fired by the team Tuesday for what had to be personal reasons.
Jackson, according to sources in the NBA, did not get along with owner Joe Lacob and general manager Bob Myers. After a meeting with team executives, Myers said it was “unanimous” that Jackson should be let go.
The news, rumored for some time, still sent shock waves around the league.
“That means things are crazy,” Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “George Karl was the coach of the year last year and got fired. Mark Jackson gets a team to multiple playoffs for the first time in a thousand years and gets fired. It’s our job. We have a tough job. Everyone knows it now more than ever. … Something has absolutely changed. I don’t know what it is. Clearly the patience has changed. I don’t know, but there’s definitely a change in thinking above us and it’s hurting us.”
Guard Stephen Curry said in a statement: “Over the last three years, coach Jackson has challenged me as a player and person. His experience and guidance has helped each of us grow in this league… Can’t thank him enough for all he did for me. I wish him all the best as he transitions to the next chapter.”
Jackson said after his team lost a tough, seven-game series to the Clippers: “I work every single day with a passion and a commitment like it’s my last. I’m trying to be a blessing to people. I’m trying to impact people, and that’s the way I live my life. That’s the way I coach. I don’t get caught up in it. I’m totally confident and have total faith that, no matter what, I’m going to be fine, and that’s even if I’m a full-time pastor. It’s going to work out.”
In a convoluted explanation for letting go one of the top young coaches in the NBA, Lacob said: “There’s a different CEO that may be required to achieve success at different stages of an organization’s development. When you’re a startup company it’s one thing, when you’re a small-growth company it’s one thing and when you’re a mature company that’s trying to reach a billion in sales — or in this case win an NBA championship — perhaps that’s a different person. And we just felt overall we needed a different person.”
Jackson, a former NBA point guard who had his best seasons with the New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers, had never been a head coach at any level when Lacob hired him away from the ESPN/ABC broadcast table in June 2011. An ordained minister away from the court, Jackson often spoke of his Christian beliefs and promised to turn the Warriors into one of the best defensive teams in the league and a perennial playoff contender — and he did.
Now, he’s out of work — but not likely for long. He could land in Los Angeles with the Lakers or go back to television for a year before returning to the bench. Meanwhile, Steve Kerr, who is a TNT game analyst, has been contacted by the Warriors, but is expected to be named the new Knicks coach in the coming days.