OAKLAND (CBS/AP) – Mark Jackson’s leadership skills as a player more than outweighed his lack of coaching experience when it came time for the Golden State Warriors to hire their coach.
The Warriors hired Jackson to replace Keith Smart on Monday, giving the former point guard and television analyst his first chance to be a head coach on the game’s biggest stage.
“He epitomized leadership as a player in this league for 17 seasons and we think that characteristic—and many other positive traits—will translate very well into his coaching duties with our young team,” owner Joe Lacob said in a statement. “He was a leader and a winner both on and off the floor in this league and we’re convinced that he is the right person to guide this team into the future and help us achieve the success that we are striving for as an organization.”
Jackson played 17 years as a point guard in the NBA, for New York, the Clippers, Indiana, Denver, Toronto, Utah and Houston. He won Rookie of the Year honors in 1988 and made the playoffs 14 times. He ranks third on the NBA’s all-time assists list.
But he has never coached, spending the past few seasons as the lead analyst for ESPN and ABC for their NBA coverage. He won’t start his new job until after he’s finished calling the NBA finals.
His first coaching job is a daunting one, taking over a team that has made the playoffs just once since 1994.
“I am really elated about this opportunity and I’m looking forward to the challenge of building the Warriors into a perennial contender,” Jackson said.
Jackson played for five Hall of Fame coaches in his college and pro career: Lou Carnesecca, Lenny Wilkens, Jerry Sloan, Pat Riley and Larry Brown.
Jackson, 46, had been looking to get into coaching while working as an analyst in recent years. He interviewed for the opening in New Orleans last year and was one of three finalists for the Minnesota job in 2009, but lost out to Kurt Rambis. He also interviewed in previous years for openings in Phoenix, New York and Chicago.
He finally ended up getting the offer he wanted from the Warriors, who have made big changes in the front office and coaching staff under Lacob’s new ownership.
“I have sensed that Joe is committed to winning and building a team and a culture the right way,” Jackson said. “I think we all witnessed that with some of the recent front office additions as well and some of the other positive things that have been done in recent months. This is an incredible opportunity.”
The hiring of Jackson is the latest move by Lacob, who took over the team last year after buying it from Chris Cohan for a record $450 million. The team cut ties with Don Nelson before Lacob and co-owner Peter Guber officially took over ownership and Keith Smart coached the team to a 36-46 mark this past season.
But Smart did not keep the job despite Golden State showing a 10-game improvement in the standings. Lacob also hired Hall of Famer Jerry West as a consultant last month and former agent Bob Myers as assistant general manager and GM in waiting in April.
Jackson takes over a team led by a high-scoring but undersized backcourt of Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry. But Golden State lacks an inside presence.
“He will bring a youthful and fresh approach to our team and the fact that he enjoyed a stellar playing career, where he served most of that time as the leader of some very successful teams, will prove invaluable in the long run,” general manager Larry Riley said. “We were looking for a coach with leadership ability and a strong personality and believe Mark possesses those qualities. He’s very well respected in NBA circles, is a consummate professional and his knowledge and background will be an incredible asset for our team and organization.”
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