Jermaine O’Neal is in his 18th NBA season, and when he hasn’t been busy confronting opponents outside the locker room following games or causing lane violations with the hitch in his free throw stroke, he’s been a pretty decent contributor for the Warriors off the bench this season.
He’s also a big fan of Warriors head coach Mark Jackson, who’s come under fire this season both for his Xs and Os, as well as his latest reassignment of an assistant coach.
O’Neal was upset by the most recent round of criticism, and voiced his support for Jackson while saying he’s the main reason that O’Neal would be willing to come back and play for the Warriors next season.
Warriors veteran big man Jermaine O’Neal called any talk of firing coach Mark Jackson “ridiculous” and “unfair” before offering a vote of confidence unique to his own NBA career. …
“But the No. 1 reason that I will come back and play another year is because of Coach Jackson. I’m absolutely, 100 percent positive about that. He makes it easy to come in this gym every day, and there’s not a lot of coaches that do that.” …
“To me, it’s one of the most unfair things that I’ve seen in a long time,” O’Neal said. “And it truly is a team that’s 18 games over .500. Eighteen. And we’re talking about firing a coach with 10, 11 games left?”
Jackson was widely believed to be the motivator and emotional leader of last year’s team that made it to the second round of the playoffs, but his assistant Mike Malone got most of the credit for the schemes put in from a pure basketball perspective.
Malone is now the coach of the Kings, and things apparently didn’t end well between him and Jackson.
We saw Lionel Hollins and George Karl both lose their positions at the end of last season after guiding their respective teams to more than 56 regular season wins. The same may very well happen to Jackson if the Warriors have a disappointing postseason effort or fail to make the playoffs altogether, and O’Neal’s support, while nice, wouldn’t be nearly enough to save him.