Relationships, when they end for reasons other than death, do not generally end on great terms.
If the parties involved got along so well that their break would be completely reasonable and without resentment, chances are there wouldn’t be a need for the split in the first place. This applies to nearly all relationships in life — even when an NBA franchise fires a coach.
This is where Mark Jackson comes in.
The former Golden State Warrior coach has returned to where he became a coaching candidate to begin with, broadcasting games for the ABC family of networks. He’s mostly pretty good at it, too… sans the entire need to randomly throw out some Floyd Mayweather opinions on Sunday afternoon.
How you feel about Mark Jackson the guy in the booth is subjective, though. It doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. It does for you as a consumer, but ABC/ESPN really enjoys the tag-team interactions between Jeff Van Gundy and Jackson, so those who dislike the latter will have to deal with it.
Jackson’s game assignments have been handled in a conspicuously unusual manner. He’s less than a year removed from being canned by Joe Lacob. The split was less than amicable. Rumors swirled that Lacob hated Jackson’s intense religious foundation for teaching the game, and then things quickly went south from there.
It didn’t help that many thought Jackson underperformed with his version of the Warriors. It is easy to say so with the benefit of hindsight in this 67-win season, but during his tenure with the team, many observers did something more than simply stick up for Mark Jackson; they were calling him a good coach. This is partly why Jackson always felt he was being run out of Oakland for non-basketball reasons.
The bitterness between the two parties didn’t stop there. Lacob and Jackson continued to toss passive-aggressive grenades of hatred towards each other, and continued to do so over the last 11 months. That is mostly where the trouble comes into the picture.
Everyone enjoys a little high-level bickering. Nothing says “elite” bickering more than a billionaire NBA owner and a former NBA player and coach always using their platforms to hurl the other under the metaphorical bus. This is the stuff of legendary Celebrity Deathmatch shenanigans. In the right forum, it can be immensely entertaining.
Continuously assigning Jackson to cover his former team and players does not provide the right forum for him to continue his airing of the grievances against the Warriors.
For one thing, Golden State’s players really seemed to like Jackson, and he liked them in return. There’s an emotional investment in the team for Jackson — not only in his hatred for Lacob, but in the admiration he still holds for his former players.
Jackson is in a no-win situation. He has been (and continues to be) given a platform where he is forced to attempt to objectively call basketball games. Given that his relationships with Golden State personnel have not been allowed to cool down, it is unfair to actually expect him to give unbiased opinions. So, why is he being asked to cover the games?
Don’t get it wrong, though. Mark Jackson seems to relish the role of giving his former employers some one-liner jabs here and there. During Golden State’s victory on Sunday in Game 1 against Memphis, Jackson mentioned how the Spurs should fire their coach for losing a Game 7. If you recall, Golden State lost Game 7 to the Clippers in the first round of the 2014 playoffs. Jackson was then given a pink slip.
The line was funny, but that’s even more of a reason to keep him away from these games. Just compare it to any possible situation you might find yourself in.
If you were released from a job, but you viewed it mostly as a wrongful termination, and the fallout was as tumultuous as what you’ve seen between the Warriors and Jackson, would any sane employer think it would be a good idea for you to be given a role at your new job to regularly criticize, praise, or vent your frustrations to a national audience? Of course not.
This isn’t about resources, either. ESPN is the worldwide leader of sports for a reason. The WWL has a bevy of on-air talent at its disposal. If ESPN/ABC wanted a completely different broadcast team calling Golden State games, or at least wanted to select one person to take Jackson’s place, it could. It wouldn’t be that difficult for Bristol. Yet it hasn’t, and the reason must be that they folks in Connecticut love the dynamic of Jackson being forced to call the games of his former team.
It is some weird, star-crossed-lovers type of situation. Jackson calling Warriors games is the Twilight saga of the NBA at the moment. Everyone knows the two parties had a relationship which left both with a bitter taste in their mouths, but no one involved can seem to get by without being near the other. It is almost as though their fates (wrapped inside the TV deal between NBA and ESPN) are forever connected, much like that vampire guy (you know, the one who looks like a James Dean knockoff) and Kristen Stewart.
For the most part, Jackson does a decent enough job controlling his emotions and limiting his anger while calling these games. If offered a similar platform against a former employer which I thought had wrongfully terminated me, I doubt I would be nearly as deft in handling the situation as well as Jackson. Still, it is a shame he has to do it at all.
Mark Jackson is truly in a lose-lose situation. No matter how politely or passive-aggressively he tries to handle game broadcasts of his former team, he is going to look bad. Outside of the cat-fight bitterness that sometimes comes through our picture-boxes, there are no good reasons why he is being assigned to Golden State games. Maybe it is time for him to stop being sent to Oakland, which would give both parties involved something all relationships should be afforded: space.
If not for Jackson and the Warriors, do it for us. Do it for your audience.