It's Mark Jackson's nature to speak up, to confront issues one way or another, no matter how sensitive. The subject of his dismissal from the Warriors is no different.
During a 32-minute phone conversation Wednesday afternoon, one day after being dismissed from the job he held for three seasons, the former coach was by turns fitful and reflective, accepting and thankful.
Jackson clearly is having trouble believing he was released essentially because his people skills didn’t measure up, according to CEO Joe Lacob.
Jackson said his in-person relationships with general manager Bob Myers and Lacob were fine, which is in line with what Lacob and Myers said a day earlier. Jackson described his relationship with co-owner Peter Guber as "great" and continued to insist he never banned board member Jerry West from team practices.
"I have not had bad relationships with anybody there," Jackson said.
Jackson believes he did at least a satisfactory job, an opinion not disputed by Lacob or Myers. Moreover, Jackson considered it unrealistic of Lacob to expect the Warriors to finish among the top four teams in the Western Conference. They finished sixth, with a 51-31 record.
"When you look at the Spurs, they're the best team in the west," Jackson said. "Look at (Oklahoma City), they have two of the top seven players in the world. When you look at the Clippers, they have two of the top 10 players in the world. The Houston Rockets have two of the top 10 players in the world. So what are we looking at?
"Now can we beat them? We can beat them. But let's be realistic. If that's what he believes, now the pressure is on them moving forward to deliver with that."
I asked Jackson if he was at all surprised – something Myers had implied on Tuesday – and he said he was not. That he couldn't be surprised given the numerous allegations made against him – including dysfunction and the banning of West – that met without response from upstairs.
"Not one person stepped up," he said. "I had to address everything."
"You can say whatever you want about my Xs and Os. You can say I don't have a clue about the game. But to question how I treat people, regular folks, and nobody answers that? The writing's on the wall. So I'm not surprised."
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Only once did Jackson express regret for his part in the series of events that led to his separation from the team he led to two consecutive playoff appearances.
"The one thing I would do different is, obviously, with the issue with my assistant coach, I would have handled it six weeks earlier, when I saw the signs and the way he was acting," Jackson said, referring to Brian Scalabrine's estrangement from most of the coaching staff.
In the weeks before he was demoted and reassigned March 25, Scalabrine had closed himself off from Jackson and other assistants, particularly Pete Myers. In his first year on the job, Scalabrine expressed his displeasure by avoiding others whenever possible.
"The forgiving side of me, the minister in me, I wanted to give him a chance to get better," Jackson said. "I figured if I handled just by being a pro, by continuing to be respectful, maybe it would change. For some folks, that works. It didn't. It got worse."
Dumped with one season left on his contract, at $2.75 million, Jackson said he enjoyed his time with his players and fans. After three seasons during which the team took a historic upward trajectory, he believes he could have continued on that path.
He laments that he won't get the opportunity, despite coming to grips with Lacob's intense desire to cultivate a championship-or-bust mentality.
"They are not aware of how hard it is to win in this league," Jackson said. "To say if you don't win a championship, you're a failure is to not understand how hard it is. Jerry Sloan and John Stockton and Karl Malone, in their primes, three Hall of Famers, did not win a championship (in Utah). And I will argue that they did not fail.
"Where the Warriors are today, it's a win. It's heck of a story. I'm grateful that they took a chance on me when nobody else would. They gave me an opportunity. I'm grateful to the fans in the Bay Area. I'm grateful to all of the players, from Day 1 until now, that sacrificed and believed and made me look good. I appreciate that. And I'm proud of the accomplishments we made together.
"We move on. I say thank you, and I look forward to the next chapter."