I was wrong. I’ll be the first to admit that I, among others, was highly skeptical of the hiring of one Mark Jackson in June, 2011. A former NBA All-Star and ranked third in career assists in the Association, Jackson previously served as a color analyst for ESPN before joining the ranks of the Golden State Warriors. But really, could anyone be blamed for being slightly hesitant over his hiring?
As the perpetual pessimism that comes with being a Warriors fan reveals itself, one is met with reluctance and sheer disbelief. Did Joe Lacob and Peter Guber really hire someone with zero coaching experience? On the surface it appeared the new Kings of the Bay Area were attempting to be the original Splash Bros. with this kind of move. Were they serious? Was Jackson the answer to nearly two decades of misery mired in woeful draft prospects never panning out? The answer to countless coaches hired whom otherwise wouldn’t see an NBA head coaching job the rest of their careers? The answer to repeated vitriol of players against management for one reason or another?
Can any self-respecting fan feel bad for their concern over such a hiring? After all, when Jackson defends the sack-tap felt ’round the world as a legitimate defensive move, many fans will raise an eyebrow, ‘Is this the guy that’s going to turn the franchise around? Really?
Yes. So it was believed by Lacob. But to quell those fans disillusioned with the idea of Jackson calling the shots, Lacob also hired Mike Malone, whom many considered one of, if not the top assistant coach in the NBA. Mike Brown recruited Malone to join him in Los Angeles; thankfully Malone chose the correct option for his career.
Flash-forward to a year where the Warriors return to the playoffs for the first time since “We Believe” in 2007. The ascension of Stephen Curry as a legitimate NBA superstar began, and they were the only team to even defeat San Antonio in the Western Conference playoffs before the Spurs met the Miami Heat. It was at this time the Bay Area started to believe in Jackson, as Lacob & Co. started to change the perceived culture of the Golden State squad a year after the debacle that was the Monta Ellis trade. Everyone loves a good scorning from Rick Barry, don’t they?
Malone was hired by Sacramento this offseason to lead their franchise to the promised land. Everyone thought with Malone’s departure, the foundation Lacob built would come crumbling down and disintegrate before our very eyes.
Wrong again. The acquisition of Andre Iguodala via free-agency shows how much the cultural influence Lacob has embedded with Golden State in a short period of time. Despite being offered more money by other organizations, Iguodala joined the Golden State team because he believed in the franchise, just like many fans want to believe.
Jackson’s regime did not falter in the absence of Malone. If anything, the team is improved over last year’s iteration because of Andrew Bogut’s improved health and Draymond Green’s ever-impressive defensive play. So what’s it going to take to turn the naysayers into believers? Is there nothing short of an NBA title that will appease the doubters? Probably not for some, but this isn’t about titles, or MVPs, or personal achievements that which only matter to the award recipient. This is about turning a franchise into a perennial powerhouse that contends with the best the NBA has to offer, night in and night out.
Contrast what Golden State has done to the list of problematic issues swirling around in Brooklyn like a whirlpool, desperately trying to flush the dying careers of past-their-prime NBA stars out of the league. They wanted to make a splash of their own with Jason Kidd, because Avery Johnson (despite being named NBA’s Coach of the Month at the time of his firing) isn’t a household name even though he led the Dallas Mavericks to the NBA Finals in 2006, but Kidd sure is.
The organization in Oakland is committed to winning, and as hard as it may be to believe after years of suffering under the Cohan Era, it really is a thing of beauty to see a once ugly duckling turn into a glorious swan.