There’s something very strange happening with head coach Mark Jackson and the Golden State Warriors. Assistant coach Brian Scalabrine was re-assigned under mysterious circumstances, and another assistant coach (Darren Erman) was reportedly fired for secretly taping conversations between the coaching staff.
A report came out on Tuesday alleging that Mark Jackson asked team adviser Jerry West not to show up for most team practices and activities, something Jackson vehemently denies. Per Grantland and USA Today:
Jackson made a show of firing Scalabrine in front of players and other coaches, but he had no real grounds, and the front office made Jackson find a compromise, per a source familiar with the matter: demoting Scalabrine to the D-League. In addition, Jackson has asked that Jerry West, a high-level adviser in Golden State, not attend most practices and team activities, sources say.
The tension with Erman got weird. Midseason, the team moved Erman’s parking spot to a less convenient place, likely at the behest of Jackson or one of Jackson’s allies on the staff, per multiple sources familiar with the matter. They began changing his duties in strange ways.
The atmosphere has bordered on poisonous, though to the credit of Jackson, his staff, and his players, it has not spilled onto the court. The team plays hard, they’re very good, and they have a chance to make noise in the playoffs despite the ill-timed injury to Andrew Bogut. The players have almost universally spoken up, and quite loudly, in Jackson’s defense. But Jackson has continued to play five-man bench units, and the Dubs’ offense, mediocre all season, goes through stretches in which it is over-reliant on isolation. A full 52 percent of Golden State’s possessions this season ended after two or fewer passes, the highest such share in the league, per SportVU data.
The consensus around the league is that Jackson is very unlikely to return next season, barring a longer-than-expected playoff run from the Warriors. That is always subject to change, and the team has not made a final decision yet. They have not reached out directly to any potential replacements, per sources around the league. Jackson can still save his job, but the smart money is on Golden State having a new coach next season.
“That’s a lie,” Jackson said after the Clippers’ 113-103 Game 5 win Tuesday. “Come on. That’s a lie. That’s disrespectful.”
When asked directly if West — who joined the team when the group led by Joe Lacob took over ownership in the summer of 2010 — was welcome at his practices, Jackson said, “Absolutely. He has been at the practices. He’s there. That’s a flat-out lie.”
A person with knowledge of the situation confirmed that West has been at recent practices. That is in accordance with the initial report, as it was not indicated that West was absent from all of the team’s sessions or activities. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the situation.
Still, the sheer number of proverbial fires that Jackson finds himself trying to put out doesn’t bode well for his coaching fate. While he was adamant that he had not made any such request regarding West, the wide and strong belief within the organization is that Jackson would prefer not to have the legendary figure overseeing his operation from a close distance.
“I have no problem with management; I have no problem with ownership,” said Jackson, the third-year coach whose team had its best record since the 1991-92 campaign this season (51-31) yet finished sixth in the Western Conference. “It doesn’t matter (what happens). You know why? Because at the end of the day, you look at who the person is. That’s all. I can’t be that incredible of an actor in front of 15 guys (his players) who are watching me every moment of the day. Those are the guys who will run through a wall (for him). … Call up one of them. Take your pick.”