Warriors' Jackson faces more scrutiny after Erman firing

Warriors' Jackson faces more scrutiny after Erman firing
April 5, 2014, 6:00 pm
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He made a mistake. He owns it. He's done a lot for this organization and I'm pulling for him to make a comeback.
Mark Jackson on Darren Erman

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OAKLAND – Mark Jackson's quest for widespread respect took a massive leap toward the spotlight on Saturday. His staff, already questioned by skeptics, and sometimes fairly, lost another member.

And Darren Erman, the assistant coach who was fired late Friday night, was far more advanced as a coach and integrated into the process than was Brian Scalabrine, the assistant reassigned 11 days earlier.

[RELATED: Warriors rocked by another coaching departure]

We can speculate on the reasons for Erman's dismissal. The Warriors say he was in such serious violation of company policy that anyone committing the same infraction would lose their job. They also imply Erman's sin had legal ramifications.

Then again, it's conceivable that this traces back to Erman's relationship with Adrian Wojnarowski, the Yahoo Sports writer who broke the Scalabrine story and alleged that Jackson is at the center of dysfunction within the franchise. Was Erman secretly leaking unflattering information?

We can guess. We can wonder. But we know this: If Pete Myers was Jackson's muse and sounding board, Erman was Jackson's trusted strategic adviser.

"He made a mistake,'' Jackson said of Erman. "He owns it. He's done a lot for me. He's done a lot for this organization. And I'm pulling for him to make a comeback. I'm pulling for him to move on and become a great coach. I believe that can happen.''

Scalabrine was a rookie coach still pondering a career, a No. 3 assistant who was learning more than he was teaching. Erman was a third-year assistant with the Warriors who has been coaching for 17 years at various levels, a No. 2 assistant who had spent more than a decade scouting and working with individual players.

[RELATED: Warriors fire assistant Darren Erman]

Erman, with the blessing of Jackson, considered Klay Thompson his personal project. The Warriors regard Thompson as their No. 2 long-term property, with only All-Star point guard Stephen Curry considered more valuable.

Moreover, Erman was the key strategist under Jackson. He was the clipboard guy, the professorial basketball junkie and staff nerd. Short and compact and studious, Erman was chosen to be Warriors head coach during the 2013 Summer League in Las Vegas. That team, for what it's worth, went 7-0 and won the title.

All of this means something under any circumstances, and it's certainly significant for a coach who, like Jackson, constantly finds his tactical expertise being questioned, often justifiably.

"I have guys that I believe in,'' Jackson said. "(Erman is) a guy that I believed in when he was a fifth assistant; he wasn't doing fifth-assistant work.''

Erman, 37, saw his career take flight after three years under Bob Hurley, the legendary New Jersey prep (St. Anthony High) coach who was the subject of a Wojnarowski book. Erman moved up to Brandeis University in 2005, then to the Celtics in 2007. After three years as a scout and assistant with the Celtics, he came to the Warriors in 2011 hoping for a broader opportunity.

So he worked his way up from fifth assistant the hard way, with long hours and sharp observations and challenging questions in search of logical solutions. Erman slept with Xs and Os floating above his head. He earned the respect of the players and Jackson.

Jackson insists he is ready to move forward without Erman. Joe Boylan, the current fifth assistant, likely will inherit a few more duties, as will Lindsey Hunter, the former NBA player began the season as the No. 4 assist but now moves to No. 2 with the dismissals of Erman and Scalabrine.

"I'm very comfortable and confident with my staff,'' Jackson reiterated.

Even if the Scalabrine and Erman removals are completely unrelated, Jackson knows where he stands.

His seat, plenty warm, is hotter. He and his staff, routinely questioned, are under a more powerful microscope – being observed by media and fans and, above all, a Warriors front office and ownership that seems increasingly uncomfortable with the direction things have taken.

This is not how Jackson and the Warriors would like to finish the regular season and wade into the playoffs. But it's the only hand they have. How Jackson is able to play it will determine whether CEO Joe Lacob is willing to stand by his coach.

At the moment, though, Lacob is one of many standing and watching. And waiting.

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