Programming note: Coverage of Game 3 between the Warriors and Nuggets begins Friday night at 7 PT on CSN Bay Area with Warriors Pregame Live, followed by playoff basketball at 7:30, and Warriors Postgame Live after the final horn.
It’s always difficult to measure the impact a head coach has on an NBA team. You have the bottom line, of course, the wins and losses and that mostly defines a coach’s success or failure.
But we all know there’s more to it than that. A team’s talent level often dictates whether a coach does well or not. The best coaches can’t win without talent, the worst coaches can’t win with talent.
But no matter how you judge a coach, it’s pretty tough to make an argument against Mark Jackson. The Warriors’ coach has had every bit the monster season that All-Star David Lee or Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson has had.
The Warriors won 47 games this season, which was more than most people predicted. Not only that, they did it mostly without Andrew Bogut, who missed more than half the season with injury issues.
The Warriors are even with Denver, a prohibitive favorite in their first-round series. Put it this way -- it’s already been a pretty good year for the Warriors. What Jackson has done best this season is get his team to play with a confidence and a looseness. He’s done that by consistently sticking with his core players and allowing them the kind of offensive freedom not a lot of players around the league have.
[PLAYOFF CENTRAL: Warriors-Nuggets -- The Gold War]
Curry, Thompson and Jarrett Jack have always had the brightest of green lights, and David Lee was given a role in which his diverse skills could be showcased.
Jackson gave consistent playing time to rookie Harrison Barnes and he made sure to keep fellow first-year players Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green always in the mix.
Early in the season, when Thompson’s shooting percentage and shot selection were both awful, Jackson hung in and supported his second-year two guard. Jackson never once questioned Thompson’s decision-making or quick trigger, and, in fact, went overboard the other way to defend him and shower him with praise.
Jackson talked about the Warriors being good from the start of the season even though neither he nor the team had any track record for success as a coach and team, respectively.
From the start of this season the Warriors played and acted like a playoff team. It was Jackson who said this team was good before anyone ever believed it. But the players seemed to believe right away.
Most of the best coaches in the NBA have some kind of presence. Whether you’re talking about Phil Jackson or Don Nelson of the past or Gregg Popovich or Doc Rivers now, it just seems like the top-shelf coaches know how to command a room, know how to gain players’ respect and know how to lead.
And Jackson does, too. He might not have the same kind of presence as some of those named above, but he’s certainly got plenty more than the Randy Wittmans, Jacque Vaughns, Larry Drews and Lawrence Franks of the league.
Criticism of Jackson is rare these days, and rightfully so. But if there is one, it’s the one about him not being very strong on the X’s and O’s.
Well, a supporter would say that he didn’t do too bad of a job in Game 2 against George Karl and the Nuggets on Tuesday. And they’d wonder how Jackson could be so weak with X’s and O’s and yet his team ranks well both offensively and defensively.
Sure, some might want Jackson to play Curry off the ball more or give Barnes more of an offensive role or let Kent Bazemore try to defend guards instead of Draymond Green.
But those are quibbles, little things and nothing more. Take a step back and you’ll find Jackson has had a big year for the Warriors … every bit as big of a year as any of his players.