Lacob's warning to future Warriors coach: It's personal

Lacob's warning to future Warriors coach: It's personal
May 6, 2014, 12:30 pm
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Owners tend to shy away from the public and stay shy after moments like this.
Ray Ratto

Programming note: Hear from Warriors GM Bob Myers and Warriors Insider Monte Poole when we break into live programming at 2 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area

So Joe Lacob wins, as we all knew he would. The only surprise is that he was in this much of a hurry to, in the apocryphal words of King Henry II toward Thomas Becket, “rid himself of this turbulent priest.”

That is the only religious reference we will make to Tuesday’s summary dismissal of head coach Mark Jackson, even though it may have been an ancillary reason why Jackson was fired. A matter of “focus,” we will be told.

[NEWS: Warriors fire Mark Jackson]

And we follow it with the only words of praise we will have for the idea of Jackson being canned, namely:

At least Lacob didn’t make the mistake of lingering over a decision he’d made awhile ago. He stopped liking Jackson, and he didn’t wait around to sample the electorate, he wanted him gone, and he was -- swiftly, and with blood.

But Jackson’s firing is very much Lacob at his most Steinbrennarian -- putting himself and his perception of the Warriors in their present state before all other considerations. It is personality-driven, because it cannot be performance-driven unless you believe the Warriors should have won 58 games instead of 51, and should have beaten the Los Angeles Clippers without their starting center.

Nobody else believes that, and if Lacob does, or he feels Jackson does more harm to the franchise by staying, he has given in to his own hubris. And owners with hubris almost always find themselves hoisted on their own petard.

There is still much backstory to sift through, and tons and tons of spin, for which Lacob sent out general manager Bob Myers before talking to a few reporters, including Comrade Poole.

[RELATED: Five factors in decision to fire Mark Jackson]

But it still boils down to this: Lacob hired Jackson, enjoyed the benefits of that hire, namely a relevant franchise after mostly 35 of years the opposite, but decided that the irritants that come with Jackson were too much to bear. That’s not a business decision, that’s a personal decision.

In other words, Lacob made Jackson’s tenure about Lacob and his front office, notably his son Kirk. He will be pilloried for it, both locally and nationally, and this probably means we won’t be seeing a lot of him in the near future. Owners tend to shy away from the public and stay shy after moments like this.

Is Jackson blameless? Of course not. It was his first job, and he made noteworthy errors, both tactically and intrapersonally. He, too, could make the topic about himself, and he did have his own stubborn streak.

But Lacob shares the blame even for that, since he was the one who chose to go with Jackson over the more experienced Mike Budenholzer, who was the only other candidate he interviewed seriously for the job. Budenholzer, a Gregg Popovich acolyte, is in Atlanta now.

And Lacob’s decision brought with it growing pains that he now finds too weighty to bear, and the only sensible conclusion to draw from that is that in Warriors World, the coach is merely an adjunct to the front office -- a system that hasn’t ever worked with any of the sports great teams, which presumably is an achievement toward which Lacob aspires.

The obvious candidates have already been assembled in the rumor grinder -- Steve Kerr, Nate McMillan, Kevin Ollie, a miscellaneous Van Gundy here or there -- and there will be a press conference to laud the new guy’s myriad credentials and tactical command. They may all be true and he may be a significant advancement beyond the Jacksonian Era that ended today.

But any coach should be aware that he is working for an owner who operates a basketball savant while having a boss’ inherent inflexibility toward personnel. Even with an appealing roster that with a bit of deftness in the offseason could become better, the players know their wishes about their leader were dismissed in the space of three days. The new guy will have to sell himself to everyone in the building on both sides of the Jackson divide, and that is a recipe for schizophrenia.

In other words, coaching the Golden State Warriors just got dramatically more difficult, and the new guy should know that first and foremost when he signs the deal Jackson never got. He’d better be better, and not just better to his boss.


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