The New York Knicks want to end the decades of dysfunction that have plagued the organization and hiring Mark Jackson would only heighten the chaos.
On its face, Mark Jackson as the head coach of the New York Knicks would be an excellent story. Born and raised in Brooklyn, alumni of St. John’s, and the former Knick point guard that electrified Madison Square Garden.
According to Chris Haynes of ESPN, Jackson will interview for the Knicks’ head coaching vacancy on Wednesday.
Mark Jackson will interview for the Knicks’ head coaching position on Wednesday, league sources tell ESPN.
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) April 17, 2018
It almost sounds as if it could be the next great “30 for 30”—but hiring Jackson would be anything but a storybook ending for the Garden faithful. There’s no reason other than sheer hope to believe that Jackson could guide the Knicks back to prominence, let alone a championship.
Jackson did a good job during his tenure in Golden State in terms of wins and losses. He brought them to the playoffs in two straight seasons and even advanced to the second round with what was seen as a young, up-and-coming roster. But it’s strange that a coach would get fired after a 51-win season.
There were deep-rooted problems with the Warriors under Mark Jackson and many of those problems revolved exclusively around Jackson. The season after Golden State parted ways with Jackson and hired Steve Kerr, the Warriors went from being a good team in the West that could maybe make some noise in the playoffs to one of the best teams in NBA history.
Jackson wasn’t the only reason why the Warriors didn’t play up to their full potential, but I would argue that he was the biggest reason. There must be an explanation as to why no other teams have shown much interest in Jackson since he was let go by Golden State.
When there was an internal push from LeBron James‘ camp to hire Jackson as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, this push was shot down by Cleveland’s GM David Griffin. This is what Adrian Wojnarowski (of Yahoo Sports at the time) wrote about Jackson’s prospects with the Cavs:
“Cleveland refused to hire Jackson. General manager David Griffin is too well-connected in the NBA, too knowledgeable of the truths inside Jackson’s Warriors regime to let that happen.”
That’s the guy some Knicks fans are looking to save the franchise?The Knicks would be wise to follow suit and stay away.
To be clear, there are a number of excellent options available on the coaching market, including David Fizdale, David Blatt, and even Jeff Van Gundy despite reports that he isn’t on the Knicks wish list.
“I have the best staff”
A great coach almost always has great assistants surrounding him. The assistants can challenge the head coach and see things from a different perspective. By all accounts, Jackson didn’t want a different perspective and he would much rather be surrounded by “yes men” that follow him without question.
Back in 2014, the Warriors’ owner Joe Lacob discussed Jackson with the InsideBayArea.com and he talked about Jackson’s unwillingness to look for quality assistants to work with him where he stated:
“Take my wallet. Do whatever it is to get the best assistants there are in the world. Period. End of story. Don’t want to hear it. And [Jackson’s] answer was, ‘Well, I have the best staff.’ No, you don’t.”
Jackson says things like “Well, I have the best staff,” but even he didn’t really think so. After an argument with assistant coach Brian Scalabrine, Jackson demoted him to the D-League and attempted to turn the rest of the coaching staff against him. The rift between Jackson and Scalabrine occurred during a film session. Scalabrine told Adrian Wojnarowski in an interview on The Vertical Podcast:
“Me and one of the other assistant coaches, all I wanted to do was not jump to a conclusion. I wanted to watch the clip that we were talking about, which means watch the tape, right? And they wouldn’t put it on. So I was like, ‘Let’s just watch the tape, and let’s figure it out. I don’t want to argue. Let’s watch the tape.’”
So a simple disagreement between Scal and Jackson led to the assistant’s unceremonious demotion and a distraction for a team that was wholly unnecessary. To be fair, we have not heard Jackson’s side of this story, but regardless, there had to have been a better way to handle this disagreement.
And it wasn’t just his assistants that Jackson had issues with. According to Lacob, Jackson had issues with hundreds of people in the organization. That’s right, hundreds. Lacob told InsideBayArea.com:
“And, look, he did a great job — and I’ll always compliment him in many respects — but you can’t have 200 other people in the organization not like you.”
200 people? That’s a pretty damning indictment of a head coach. But who cares, right? Mark Jackson is a former player and he doesn’t need to be best friends with everyone in the building. All he needs to do is create a great relationship with his players.
Players Coach? Not even close…
Being able to connect with players is one of the most important things for a coach in today’s NBA. As a former player, this should be a layup for the 17-year NBA veteran—but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
There are multiple instances where there was notable friction between Jackson and his players, but the most concerning is how he treated Festus Ezeli. Back in 2015, Zach Lowe of ESPN wrote for Grantland:
“When Festus Ezeli was injured last season, Jackson and his staff told the healthy players that Ezeli was cheering against them — so that he would look good, according to several team sources. Players confronted Ezeli in a meeting, and he wept at the accusation — which he denied.”
This is an odd coaching tactic, to say the least. Trying to motivate your team by getting them to turn on one of their own teammates seems like cutting off your nose to spite your face.
And while Ezeli was the most concerning example of Jackson’s odd motivation tactics, it wasn’t the only one. Jackson was known for employing an us-against-the-world mentality, but the “enemy” that he employed were oftentimes members of the Warriors organization. There were various reports of Jackson attempting to turn his team against the front office. Why would Steve Mills and Scott Perry want to hire a guy who made it his mission to give his previous bosses a hard time?
The Knicks should be looking for a coach to bring a steady hand and put a stop to the dysfunction that has plagued this organization for the better part of two decades. If they’re looking for that steady hand, the last person they should turn to is Mark Jackson. He ended his tenure in Golden State “on an island,” according to Adrian Wojnarowski and there’s no evidence that his time in New York would end any differently.