You can’t help but love the way the Warriors play for their new head coach, Mark Jackson. Our W’s have always played high on spunk, but you can tell from the dedication of players from Monta Ellis to Jeremy Tyler: These guys go all-out for their coach and believe in him. And that’s a good thing.
But Mark Jackson flat-out lost that game for his team Thursday night. 117-109. Here’s why.
First, Jackson’s obsession with the Hack-a-Shaq strategy failed miserably. You don’t put a player on the line 39 times — a new NBA record, surpassing Wilt Chamberlain — when the guy makes 21 of them. Duh.
Wilt scored his 100 on 28-of-32 free throw shooting. Let’s just say it’s a good thing Dwight Howard doesn’t have a three-point-shot in his game.
Second, and more importantly, Jackson has got to learn to carry himself like a leader on the sidelines.
Two things, specifically, have no place as an NBA head coach:
- A hard, adversarial relationship with the media — and, by extension — your fans. Fake it if you need to Mark, but show some enthusiasm for the 17,000 maniacs who have tolerated losing year after year. We know you can perform, we enjoyed it for years. “Mama, there goes that man.” Remember that?
- Bad body language. Coach Jackson, take your hands out of your pockets. Let me repeat: Hands out. Hands up. Hands anywhere, except tucked in the most passive, helpless, there’s-nothing-I-can-do posture imaginable.
Mark Jackson would have done himself a favor to coach in the D-League for two years before facing the strategic rigor of the NBA. Key skills like clock management, late-game strategy, and substitutions are best developed when it really doesn’t matter, not at the very top level of your sport in a ridiculously-compressed regular season.
Now, of course, at the end of the proverbial day, the Warriors lost to the Magic not because Mark Jackson had his hands in his pockets, but because they couldn’t grab key rebounds down the stretch and couldn’t give Monta the scoring support he needed.
But taking your hands out of your pockets wouldn’t hurt. Try it sometime.