Racism in the year 2014 is unfortunately an ugly and still very real part of virtually every aspect of American politics, economics, and culture. There's no doubt about that.
However, racism in Mark Jackson's firing from the Golden State Warriors head coach position doesn't seem like a factor.
It's embarrassing to admit it, but the "inspiration" for this piece comes from an irresponsible and pointless article from Ric Bucher: NBA Insider: Criticism of Mark Jackson May Not Be Simply a Matter of X's and O's
(Is there some lingering bitterness by Bucher towards Warriors management for not being the local TV sideline reporter anymore? Sure seems like it.)
There was plenty of unquestionable reasons to move on from Mark Jackson:
- Questionable preparation: There were countless home losses to mediocre and even awful NBA teams in Jackson's final year. Coaching and game prep is clearly an issue when you suffer an utterly embarrassing 40 point blowout playoff loss to a Clippers team -- a team that mere days following this game would have to publicly deal with (ironically) a real racist owner. (I still can't believe Donald Sterling's history of housing discrimination got a pass for years, but some dumb offhand comments are what got him kicked out of the NBA.)
- Questionable assistant coaching staff: Warriors owner Joe Lacob is on record saying he gave Jackson a blank check to hire the best assistants. (See: Joe Lacob Rips Mark Jackson, Former Coaching Staff) That obviously didn't happen. None of the assistants he didn't fire (apologies for the double-negative) have jobs in the NBA this season.
- Questionable work ethic: Jackson was on record saying he wasn't about pulling the long workdays and nights that are the norm of the NBA coaching scene. Imagine a Warriors player saying they don't believe in working as hard as the average NBA player. Well, I'm imagining the consequence being a ton of press critiques and thinly veiled shots directed towards "lazy, rich black athletes." (Very bizarre double-standard by the media. Maybe it's the intersection of youth-race-class that causes the constant attacks on mostly black athletes? Definitely something for us to explore another time.)
- Questionable dedication: How do you become the head coach of the Warriors and not even live in the Bay Area? (Housing prices are my evidence. People want to live here. It's not a bad place to live.) Seems like someone isn't fully committed to their job.
- Questionable public stances: Putting aside morality, being openly anti-gay with an openly gay executive at your company in the Bay Area is just plain stupid, in my opinion.
- Questionable personal issues: Just read this piece about Jackson's shall we say, perplexing personal life, that ran on SFGate.com two years ago.
That's not to entirely dismiss the very valid reasons for keeping him. Jackson connected deeply with several of the players and coached the Warriors to back-to-back playoff appearances. Given all the franchise struggles and dysfunction over the Chris Cohan era of WE GOT SUCK, that's like winning back-to-back championships.
But if you're one of the few folks who still believe Jackson's firing exhibited racism by Lacob and the rest of the Warriors executive team please ask yourself these questions:
- Why was one of their first moves firing Hall of Famer Don Nelson and promoting Keith Smart?
- After firing Keith Smart why did they take a gamble and hire an entirely unproven NBA coach with zero coaching experience at any level in Mark Jackson?
- After hiring Steve Kerr why did the Warriors go out and hire the most expensive assistant coach they could find in Alvin Gentry? (By the way, Gentry would have been a fantastic head coach hire this past offseason for the Warriors. It will surprise no one if he gets hired as a head coach next season.)
Racism is real. Racism in the NBA is real. (Shoot I still to this day believe the NBA's Dress Code in 2005 exhibited extreme ignorance and cultural insensitivity.) But racism in Mark Jackson's dismissal as Warriors head coach? It's curious to call that a factor.
* I sincerely apologize to my golden folks and longtime readers. The Warriors are a truly unstoppable baby 18-2! My goal was to write about that today, but I got distracted. Next time...