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Former Warriors assistant wins NBA title

Nuggets coach Michael Malone got a ring as Denver defeated Miami. But it all got started in Oakland

Mark Jackson Introductory Press Conference
Michael Malone and his mentor, Mark Jackson
Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Some would say two-time MVP Nikola Jokic is the biggest reason Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone won his first ring Monday night. Others would credit the return of Jamal Murray from ACL surgery, the defensive play of Aaron Gordon, or Malone’s fiery intensity. But that would be disrespecting the caterpillar to rave about the caterpillar.

Because like Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Marreese Speights, Malone learned how to win from former Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson. He was Jackson’s lead assistant from 2011 to 2013, when the Warriors jumped from 23 wins in 2011-12 their first year to 47 in 2012-13. While Malone moved on to become head coach of the Sacramento Kings the next year, he’s never forgotten the principles of Mark Jackson basketball.

Do you remember seeing this clip of Malone furiously yelling at the Nuggets during a timeout against the Suns?

That’s because Kentavious Caldwell-Pope didn’t raise his hand to contest a jump shot. And as we all know, hand down means man down.

When talking about Jokic, Malone told reporters he was “like Secretariat.”

But if “that man” can run for days, imagine how Malone describes Jokic to his mother. Perhaps he says, “Mama, there goes that man”?

Malone picked up on Jackson’s us-against-the-world mentality, complaining that reporters were crediting Rui Hachimura’s defense for swinging the conference finals in a game Denver won. If we later find out that Denver’s assistants were wiretapping Malone in the locker room, we’ll know he truly did absorb Jackson’s wisdom.

In all seriousness, Malone deserves all kinds of credit for winning the chip, and for overcoming what former Warrior Andrew Bogut hinted was a strained relationship. And for all the credit Jackson has publicly taken for the Warriors’ defensive turnaround, Bogut says it was Malone who was running their defense.

Jackson surprisingly didn’t mention his two-year relationship with Malone much, if ever, during the five games of the Finals. Bogut hints that there was more to Malone’s departure than came out publicly. Unfortunately, we’d have to listen to the Rogue Bogues podcast to learn the truth and honestly, we’re probably not going to do that.

Malone should be the coach in Denver for as long as he wants. Though it won’t be as long as Jackson’s employed at ESPN, where he has apparently received a lifetime appointment that can only be severed by an NBA team making an incredibly ill-advised head coaching hire or another FBI investigation or Jackson making Lisa Salters cry by making up a story that she was cheering against Doris Burke.

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