It's time to fire Mark Jackson.
The NBA is a player's league. At the end of the day, teams with top talent win. Teams with midlevel talent end up in the middle of the standings, and teams with poor talent end up in the lottery.
Even a great tactician like Don Nelson didn't really have a lot of teams over-perform. His teams beat the teams they were supposed to beat. Phil Jackson? Does anyone think it's a coincidence that he kept taking jobs for teams that had championship-level talent, and left when their championship windows started closing?
So if we can't really judge a coach by wins and losses, how do we judge a coach?
I would argue that you judge an NBA coach in three areas:
The first is tactical. Does he understand rotations and timeouts? Does the team run offenses that respect its strengths and limitations? Does the defensive strategy make sense given the players? Does the coach make dynamic changes to exploit matchups during the game? Don Nelson was great at this. Eric Spoelstra is doing this at an elite level today.
The second is motivationally. This is important, and casual fans often underestimate it. Do the players buy into the team concept? Does the team show up and play every day? Phil Jackson was the master of this.
The third is leadership. Does the coach provide a steady hand? Does he give the players enough rope to make mistakes, while still not tying himself to a sinking ship? Do players understand their roles and commit to them? Is the team resilient - can they steady themselves when the bounces and calls go the other way? Greg Popovich is the gold standard here.
Mark Jackson is failing in all three areas.
Tactically, this team is a mess. Against bad teams, the team's superior passing makes this irrelevant, but against good defenses things get really ugly. The team reverts to isos despite not having particularly good isolation players. The bench unit hardly even looks like it's trying to run an offense at all, resulting in ugly turnovers as players who shouldn't be creating one-on-one have no choice but to try. The failure to install a second-unit offense is squarely on the coach.
Mark Jackson doesn't have the slightest clue as to when to call timeouts, and his management of rotations makes no sense at all. He either runs players into the ground, or goes full bench mob, which is entirely ineffective, when some simple changes (running Draymond more with the starters, Lee and Iguodala with the bench) would seem to be logical improvements.
Mark Jackson's calling card has supposedly been his ability to be a motivator, but the reality is that this team has not been showing up regularly. The slow starts are on the coach. How often have you ever seen a Popovich, Jackson, or Riley coached team just not show up for the first quarter? The Warriors already have multiple losses against teams they should beat simply because they couldn't be bothered to show up until the second quarter.
Leadership is also lacking. Compare how Thibideau has handled Boozer with how Jackson has handled Lee. While neither will ever be a great defensive player, Boozer, for most of his tenure with the Bulls, has bought in. He moves his feet, gets his arms up, and moves to the right spot on defense. I just watched Lee back away from a shooter with his arms spread, making it impossible for anyone else to help.
How is it that in over two season with Jackson, Lee hasn't figured out how to put his arms up when he helps on defense? That he still can't set a decent screen?
Klay's mental lapses are primarily on Klay, but one could forget that Shaq was known for similar things early in his career, and Phil Jackson did a lot of work with him. Jackson has shown no ability to help Klay out of his funks.
The turnover problem has been on the players, sure, but it's the coach's job to find adjustments, to get the players to play a little more within themselves to address that problem. Jackson seems to have no ability to get the team to play within themselves, and his only method of slowing things down is to go into repeated isolations.
And the Warriors frequently seem to play like a team that, if you challenge them, fold faster than superman on laundry day. Time after time it's come down to Curry's heroics to pull us back into games, and not even Michael Jordan won consistently when it was up to him to pull the team's ass out of the fire.
Jackson said recently that he had "I'm finding that the guys in suits and ties want it more than the guys in the uniforms." Guess what, Jackson? That's your job right there. It seems like his go-to move when frustrated is to say something to the media, but you can only go to that well so many times ... and at this point, it's already dry.
The Warriors have good talent. They have an elite point guard in Curry, a great two-way player in Iguodala, and a top defensive center in Bogut. Rounding out our starting five we have players in Lee and Thompson who can be great when used the right way, but who have weaknesses which a coach needs to find ways to work with. When you add in a versatile player like Draymond who would have a role on every team in the league, and a young player with talent like Barnes who needs to be honed but clearly has potential, you have a team that should be doing better than these guys are doing.
The defensive intensity in the fourth quarter against the Spurs, the comebacks against Houston and Charlotte showed us that this team has the talent to play very good basketball. But somehow, they don't do it consistently. That's on the coach.
Hiring Mark Jackson wasn't a terrible decision. It was a gamble, sure, but not all gambles that don't work out are bad plays. The biggest mistake is to push more chips to the center of the table in a desperate attempt to save a lost hand.
The worst thing the team could do is to use the injuries as an excuse. Yes, losing O'neal and Ezeli hurt. Yes, missing Iguodala for a couple of weeks hurt. But well-coached teams don't collapse when missing a single key player. (If you needed any evidence of that, just look at last night: The Spurs were on the second night of a back-to-back, and down three of their four best players, and they found a way to win. The Warriors lose Iguodala and go into a tailspin for two weeks, with no adjustments, to attempt to work around the problem.
The problem is Jackson. It's time for him to go.