Mark Jackson left his post as a broadcaster in 2011 for a head coaching job with the Golden State Warriors, his first time roaming the sidelines in any capacity. After struggling in his first season, he exceeded expectations the two following years, leading the Warriors to the playoffs twice in a row, losing to the Spurs in the second round in 2012-13 and then to the Clippers in 2013-14 in a tough seven-game series. He built strong relationships with his players, especially franchise star Stephen Curry.
But in the offseason he was fired and replaced by rookie coach Steve Kerr.
Considering Jackson presided over one of the most successful stretches of Warriors basketball in decades, the decision to part ways with him was seen as surprising. Rumors about his poor relationship with management and with his assistant coaches were out there but no one knew how bad things had gotten and how much they affected the decision to let him go.
"Right now, (Kerr) looks great," Lacob said at the Western Association of Venture Capitalists/National Venture Capital Association luncheon Wednesday. "I think he will be great. And he did the one big thing that I wanted more than anything else from Mark Jackson he just wouldn't do, in all honesty, which is hire the very best.
"Carte blanche. Take my wallet. Do whatever it is to get the best assistants there are in the world. Period. End of story. Don't want to hear it. And (Jackson's) answer . . . was, 'Well, I have the best staff.' No you don't. And so with Steve, very, very different."
Jackson's staff, consisting of Lindsay Hunter, Brian Scalabrine, Pete Myers, Jerry DeGregorio and Darren Erman, clearly failed to meet the standards of management. Making matters worse, he publicly clashed with two of them. First, was reassigned to the Warriors D-League affiliate after what Jackson called "a difference in philosophy" and then was fired for secretly recording coaches' meetings, allegedly to share them with front office personnel. There was clearly a dysfunctional environment among Jackson's inner circle.
But the problems extended further than that, according to Lacob's candid comments:
"Part of it was that he couldn't get along with anybody else in the organization," Lacob said. "And look, he did a great job, and I'll always compliment him in many respects, but you can't have 200 people in the organization not like you."
Lacob hinted at Jackson's icy relationship with the majority of the organization when he fired the coach, telling Tim Kawakami of the Mercury News:
Look, I don't think we should get into the great details of what did happen, other than to say that this is a decision that was based on what was good for the organization as a whole.
And when I say the organization as a whole I don't mean just the team and just the 15 players that are involved and the coaching staff. I mean everybody. There's 200 employees here.
So when we look at the organization going forward and the kind of coach we want and... not just the performance but everything else, all these factors matter. We took all that account.
Curry, who, as noted above, is particularly close with Jackson, was not happy with his owner's comments. On Monday he called them a "distraction," adding, "I think it's unfortunate, just the distraction from what is going on right now." According to Diamond Leung of the Mercury News, Curry said he didn't want to "discredit" anything that Jackson did with the Warriors and called him a "great coach."
These new quotes from Lacob bring light to a situation that was confusing to many outside observers and don't paint Jackson in the best light. It's unclear how much this news will affect Jackson's future employment possibilities, if he decides to leave his job doing color commentary with ESPN once again. He will surely get another head coaching job at some point, since the on-court results were positive. Whoever decides to hire him will now be fully aware of the baggage he brings with him.