Golden State Warriors, Victims to Mark Jackson’s Strategic Tunnel Vision

It doesn’t surprise me that Mark Jackson employed his hack-a-Howard last night. It didn’t surprise me when he did it on Christmas Day to Deandre Jordan and the LA Clippers. Mark Jackson was always a lobbyist for teams taking advantage of the rules as best they could when he called games for ESPN. As disgusting as flopping, intentional fouling and guys jumping into defenders for free throws is to many of us, Mark Jackson was always applauding from his court side seat. Thank goodness Jeff Van Gundy was there to put him in his place.

It’s just too bad for Mark Jackson that Jeff Van Gundy isn’t on his coaching staff in Golden State.

Since last night’s game, where Dwight Howard attempted an NBA record 39 free throw attempts, Jackson’s hack-a-Howard strategy has been debated fiercely. Whether from a strategic stand point the choice to foul Howard throughout the game was right or wrong, Jackson’s implementation of this tactic does not bode well for his long-term future.

I think we can safely assume that Mark Jackson aspires to be an all-time coaching great. When all is said and done, he will want to be mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich, Jerry Sloan and Pat Riley.

It won’t happen if he continues to think like 15-year-old – unable to look farther in the future than Friday night. As a first year head coach on a team that lacks basic defensive principles, Mark Jackson should be laying a solid foundation for years to come. Instead, all he seems to care about is a meaningless January win on a team that is bound to be golfing come playoff time.

Mark Jackson clearly cannot comprehend the idea of short-term pain for long-term gain. Too bad that his attempt to prove himself as an outside-the-box thinking NBA coach will cause him not only short-term pain but long-term pain as well.

By putting his excessive hack-a-poor free throw shooter strategy into practice from day one, Mark Jackson has told his team they can’t play defence and he isn’t even going to bother trying. It isn’t possible for Jackson’s players to ever learn to trust him if he won’t put any faith into them. It’s not a good sign for the Warriors franchise that they have a coach who is so short-sighted.

His comments following yesterday’s game did nothing except reinforce his narrow-minded philosophy. He said “I can understand people thinking, ‘Why?’ But don’t get caught up in the free throws. Think about the times we didn’t foul him. It was dunks, hooks, plays at the rim. He’s a great player and a bad free-throw shooter. We were giving ourselves the best possible chance by messing up their rhythm.”

Let’s go with Mark and believe that those 39 free throw attempts did in fact give his team the best chance to win. So what? Teaching your guys how to intentionally foul a far superior individual isn’t doing anything to benefit the long-term future of your franchise and you personally as a coach. I don’t care that Kwame Brown was injured and they had no true center to guard Dwight Howard. It’s not about that.

Give a man a fish he’ll eat for a day but teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime. Sadly, Mark Jackson’s men didn’t even get to eat for a day.

 

Mark Jackson shouldn’t be looking for a few cheap wins here and there. Hack-a-Howard won’t help instil a gritty, hard-nosed, defensive culture in his team that was absent in Don Nelson’s run and gun, high-octane offensive system.

The Warriors may lack the personnel to be a great defensive team but it doesn’t mean they can’t try. Mark Jackson should look at the way Toronto Raptor’s first year coach Dwane Casey has implemented a refreshing brand of hustle into a team that was the NBA’s worst defence last season. Despite the lockout and a starting line-up that still features Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon, Casey has transformed a previously inept Raptor defence into respectability. Casey talked before the season of bringing a new brand of basketball to the city of Toronto and he has done that.

Unlike Dwane Casey and contrary to what Mark Jackson might believe, he hasn’t walked the walked.

Last night, unbeknownst to Jackson, he waved the white flag and surrendered to the Orlando Magic. He thought he was fighting for his team but really he was telling them that he shouldn’t be the general leading them into battle. Some players would jump in front of a bullet for their coach. There’s probably a few Warrior’s right now who would push Mark Jackson into the line of fire.

It may be too early to write Mark Jackson off as a legitimate NBA coach but the alarm bells are ringing. If he doesn’t change his ways and continues looking only in the short-term, he won’t have to worry much about the long-term state of the Warriors.

No problem though, Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Breen will welcome him back with open arms.

You can follow Chris on twitter @paintstheblack or e-mail him at cross_can15@hotmail.com

About the author: Chris Ross

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