Golden State won 51 games last season and pushed a very good, deep Clippers team to seven games in the first round. That locker room, led by Stephen Curry, played hard for Mark Jackson and believed what he sold in the locker room. Notice that when Steve Kerr got hired there were not tweets about how Curry or other players about how they looked forward to working with Kerr — that was out of respect to Jackson. Also, we should note up front midway through the season Jackson demoted coach Brian Scalabrine to the D-League.
Scalabrine, back on the media side of the table now, has taken a few shots at Jackson and his coaching style the past few days, saying he didn’t know how to push a team.
The latest came on ESPN Radio’s Doug Gottlieb Show on Thursday. Here are some of his quotes, as transcribed by Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group.
“I don’t think championships are given out. I think championships are earned, and I just felt like along the way we thought…something was going to happen. Like it’s OK to be average. It’s OK to be .500. It’s OK to be an eighth seed, ninth seed, or move our way up to a sixth seed. I mean, that’s just not the right mentality if you’re trying to win with a team with a lot of young players.
“Generally, as a staff we really didn’t prepare our team to be championship-caliber nor did we prepare our team to eventually be championship-caliber….
“Taking the easy way out, right?” Scalabrine said. “Like putting (Curry) on not the best player, and that wasn’t his decision. That’s not Steph Curry’s responsibility. Steph wanted to guard Chris Paul. He wanted to guard Tony Parker. I can guarantee you. Everyone that knows Steph Curry knows that he’s like an elite competitor.”
What Curry wants and what is best for the team can two different things. Curry is the focal point of the Golden State offense and a lot of teams with elite coaches take their best offensive guy and don’t give him the toughest defensive job as well, to let the guy rest. Plus, Klay Thompson is just flat out a better defender, so put him on CP3 (or whoever) and let Curry work off the ball. You can give Curry some spot duty on Paul, but you need to keep Curry fresh for the end where he has to be elite.
And again, Curry was one of Jackson’s biggest and most vocal supporters.
Scalabrine’s point through all of this was Jackson treated this too much like a veteran team that already knew how to win and didn’t lean on guys as hard as he needed to. Scalabrine compared him to Doc Rivers (Scalabrine the player won a ring in Boston with him) and the hard-driving Tom Thibodeau. Good role models in some way, but you can lift guys up as a coach with different styles and personalities.
The real question now in Golden State: Can Steve Kerr do better? Another untested coach straight out of the broadcast booth, he has got to get more out of the talent on hand (because apparently this team doesn’t need Kevin Love). If he doesn’t this falls less on Kerr and more on the owners.