OAKLAND – Warriors coach Mark Jackson on Tuesday responded to a news report alleging an “increasingly dysfunctional atmosphere” within the higher levels of the organization by referring to the report as folly.
“We are tied together and we are excited about what lies ahead,” Jackson said after practice. “We are excited about what has taken place up to this point – the culture, the environment, with no dysfunction at all.
Well, no. It's not at all comical if you're Brian Scalabrine, the No. 3 assistant coach in his first year with the Warriors who was demoted – 71 games into the season, mind you – under the guise of being reassigned to the D-League Santa Cruz Warriors.
The shoving of Scalabrine down the coast after a demoralizing loss to the Spurs last Saturday was cited as illustrative of the increasingly dysfunctional atmosphere under Jackson, according to a Yahoo Sports report that hit the web site Tuesday morning.
But the Warriors, as of the afternoon of March 25, don't exactly fit within the parameters as comedy or dysfunction, though dysfunction could lurk around the bend if Jackson isn't careful.
Coaches, front office personnel and ownership undoubtedly are experiencing the heated agitation that comes with raised expectations. There are personality clashes. There are occasional and not always rational resentments. There are disagreements, collisions between the patient and the impatient.
It's very real conflict, all the stuff that typically occurs when strong male egos gather around a table of a sports team.
But it's not dysfunctional, as indicated in a Tuesday morning Yahoo Sports report. Dysfunctional is what the Oakland Raiders were during those flailing, final years under the late Al Davis. Dysfunctional is what the New York Knicks have been this season.
Dysfunctional is what the Warriors were before Chris Cohan sold the team to Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, who in turn summoned legendary hoops mystic Jerry West while hiring general manager Bob Myers and Jackson.
What the Warriors are today is quite functional – they've been better since the All-Star break (13-5) than before (31-22) – but increasingly strident and anxious. The new expectations – the product of Lacob, Guber, Myers, Jackson and an improved roster – are high enough to work nerves and play on emotions.
“I believe in what we've been able to do here,” Jackson said, “as an ownership group, as a management group, as a coaching staff, as players, as a fan base that's the best in the business, to do what has taken place the last three years and to be in the position we are in today, it's a winning culture.”
It's a winning culture, for now. It works, for now.
But Jackson has to navigate these next few weeks very skillfully. His tough outer shell masks a sensitive soul, which explains his joking about “being on the hot seat” and his overt sensitivity to even veiled criticisms.
Jackson is staking out his ground, as all coaches do. He knows it's not as firm as he would like. He knows there is grumbling from above and it's not what he particularly cares to hear.
Moreover, Jackson knows his job with the Warriors is hanging in the balance, that these upcoming playoffs likely will dictate whether he gets a new contract offer, assuming he wants one.
I still think he does, for now.
He's dead wrong about a report of strife within the Warriors being “comical.” Jackson's team has come a long way under his leadership. If he pulls the rug now, it's a hard right turn toward dysfunction.