OAKLAND – Hours after meeting with Mark Jackson and dismissing the coach he hired 35 months ago, Warriors CEO Joe Lacob sat in his corner office explaining why the franchise would fire its most successful coach over the past two decades.
Proficiency, Lacob conceded, was not the primary factor behind his decision.
“The decision to not bring Mark back is not willy-nilly; there are reasons,” Lacob said Tuesday. “It’s less based on performance, that is win-loss record, and perhaps slightly more based on overall philosophy.”
The Warriors finished the regular season 51-31, their best record since 1991-92. They were coming off consecutive postseason appearances for the first time ’92. Their season ended with a Game 7 playoff to the Clippers on Saturday in Los Angeles.
When I asked Lacob if the team’s record was unsatisfactory, he said that was not the case.
“I would not say it’s unsatisfactory,” Lacob said. “I would say that it did not meet our goals.”
Lacob described the team’s primary goals as being among the top four teams in the Western Conference. The Warriors, for the second year in a row, finished sixth.
“We did improve the team, on paper, and we thought that was a reasonable expectation,” he said, referring mostly to the addition of forward Andre Iguodala. “We did not achieve that. We had a good year, but just didn’t excel at the level we had hoped to.”
There were contributing factors, including injuries, which Lacob acknowledged. Starting center Andrew Bogut lost 15 games due to injuries and a suspension and was not available in the postseason. Backup center Jermaine O’Neal missed 38 games with injuries. Another backup center, Festus Ezeli, missed all 82 games after undergoing knee surgery. Iguodala missed 19 games with a hamstring injury and knee tendinitis. Power forward David Lee missed 13 games.
Lacob said the reasons behind Jackson’s termination were broader than the record or even the strategy he employed. He said Jackson’s relationship with the organization was less than “ideal.”
Put another way, Lacob indicated Jackson’s coaching career would be better served if he cultivated relationships beyond those involving his players and staff.
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Indeed, Lacob insisted he did not believe Jackson, in his third season as a coach, was tactically inferior to Clippers coach Doc Rivers, a veteran of 15 seasons on the bench.
Yet the Warriors brain trust – with Lacob and general manager Bob Myers at the top – unanimously decided they would be better off with another head coach.
“There is an element of that probably weighs on my thinking, certainly, and maybe on Bob’s, that there is the right coach for the right time and the right situation,” Lacob said. “And it’s our feeling at this point in time, that he’s probably not the right coach for us, going forward, given all of the circumstances.”