While not as humiliating as last week’s death-by-three-pointer barrage in Texas, Head Coach Mark Jackson has to be happy that the bleeding will stop, at least for a week, giving him and his staff time to regroup.
Suddenly, the feel good story of the NBA’s first half is looking like it might have a tear-jerker ending. Jackson has gotten the Warriors to achieve at a high level since the year started and perhaps even had gotten this squad to overachieve. Warrior fans have gladly swallowed the Kool-Aid in a desperate hope that the team can break out of the mediocrity of previous years, guided by the reputably knowledgeable hands of Jackson.
There’s no question that the goods have been sold. The question now is: Can Jackson deliver?
There’s has been a fairly extensive grace period with Jackson and his slow and steady style. Last year’s season was considered a throw away tester, given that Warriors management blew up the roster by trading Monta Ellis to the Milwaukee Bucks for Andrew Bogut at the trade deadline. And improvement of this year’s team, especially on defense, had many believing that Jackson’s placid, low key style was a plus in reaching today’s mercurial NBA player.
But five losses in a row, the majority of them marred by poor defensive play, have some wondering if Jackson’s “hands off” attitude is ultimately the way to reach this team.
Frankly, some of Jackson’s critics have been whispering from the beginning of his tenure that his role as head coach is mostly inspirational and that his assistants have been doing most of the heavy lifting with this team. His side line presence has fed into this perception as Jackson is often found standing stoically observing the action, avoiding the hand waving and politicking of officials that many of his fellow NBA head coaches engage in.
Whether Jackson’s placid demeanor becomes a larger issue or not, the second half will tell us a lot about his coaching ability. There has been large improvements with Golden State this season. The team has played harder, smarter and tougher than in previous years. Some, if not much, of the credit for this has to go to Jackson.
But motivating an NBA team from the bottom tier into the upper crust is as tough a job as there is in sports. Ask Mike D’antoni about that one.
Jackson may have to dig deeper in his coaching bag of tricks to make this Warrior playoff dream come true. And given the increasingly tight Western Conference playoff race, he can’t count on the waters around him staying calm.