As Lacob remains silent, Jackson's status remains unclear

As Lacob remains silent, Jackson's status remains unclear
May 5, 2014, 2:00 pm
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If Lacob decides Jackson must go, as his displays of displeasure and enduring silence suggest, it can't be for basketball reasons. It'll have to be the other stuff.
Monte Poole

When the critics tried to back Mark Jackson into a corner, the Warriors coach fought back, as did his team, at least as hard as he did.

Warriors CEO Joe Lacob, the man who hired Jackson, stood surveying the scene, soaking it in, watching it all unfold, letting chaos remain chaotic, never once stepping in or speaking up.

Jackson surely noticed this, as did his team, as least as much as he did.

Lacob harbored his thoughts during the 10-game win streak that stretched through late-December and well into January. He kept quiet when the Warriors won their 50th game and said nothing when they took No. 51.

And his lips stayed sealed through the stirring playoff series during which the Warriors waged vigorous competitive warfare against the Los Angeles Clippers, a team even the most delusional Warriors optimist must concede is superior.

Jackson kept his head high and his team on track. Having watched the Warriors all season, it certainly appeared the coach-team bond was never stronger than it was over the final month.

The Warriors achieved most, if not all, of the reasonable benchmarks sketched out before the season. All factors considered – injuries, distractions, lack of public support from ownership – a 51-31 regular-season record and a suspenseful seven-game playoff series grades out no lower than a "B."

[POOLE: Warriors playoff recap: Second straight springtime heartbreak]

To question whether Jackson can coach, as many are, dismisses the fact that he is winning. You don't like his Xs and Os? Check the record. Don't like his rotations? Check the record. Don't like the way he uses timeouts? Check the record.

To hate or even harp on Jackson's offense is to ignore the markedly upward trajectory of the franchise. The Warriors matter, for the first time in a long time, not in spite of Jackson but largely because of him.

The No. 1 priority for an NBA head coach is to bond with his team. Priorities No. 2 through infinity won't matter unless the coach succeeds at No. 1. And Jackson has.

So if Lacob decides Jackson must go, as his displays of displeasure and enduring silence suggest, it can't be for basketball reasons. It'll have to be the other stuff.

It would have to be about divergent personalities and colliding egos. Any grounds for dismissal would have to be traced back to those intangible and unquantifiable factors that make Lacob and maybe some of his friends and associates uncomfortable, if not altogether cold.

And, honestly, Jackson has given them plenty of ammo for that.

He coaches with a bunker mentality, with him as the general. His energy is devoted to his staff and players, with little or no time saved for schmoozing executives. Jackson does not play the game – and we all know what "the game" is – and in certain wealthy circles that can be perceived as being insufficiently compliant.

Which, skillfully spun, is expressed as "does not tend to play well with others."

Then there was the agitation within the coaching staff, the paranoia and friction that led to the loss of two assistants in the final three weeks of the regular season.

There was Jackson's strident dedication to faith – and to his church in Reseda – which also is a contributing factor to his unwillingness to move full-time to the Bay Area.

[REWIND: Curry makes another push for Jackson to stay]

Finally but pertinently, there is the unspoken sentiment that the reverend/coach, with his passionate pulpit manner, has at his core and in his inflection a bit too much Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Yes, even in 2014, a black man must be careful how forcefully he casts his brashness, for there is the risk of being slapped with ticket for committing the social violation of hubris.

"I'm totally confident and have total faith that no matter what, I'm going to be fine," Jackson said late Saturday night, after a Game 7 loss to the Clippers. "And that's even if I'm a full-time pastor. It's going to work out."

It is altogether likely Lacob will draw up a set of demands, personal and professional, that Jackson is unwilling to meet. Or that Jackson will request terms to which Lacob won't agree. The result could be a very mutual decision.

Lacob, however, would be the one who needs to recover. Only he will be in damage control.

From the moment he walked into the corner office, Lacob has promised to be bold and daring and willing to astound. He followed through on the vow when he hired Jackson, then persuaded the legendary Jerry West to join the team.

The most astounding move Lacob can make now is to stand by his coach, proving that his silence was not a verdict but simply solemn evaluation and continued deliberation.

That, however, might be a bit too astounding.

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