“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 interviewed with Lacob, newly hired consultant Jerry West and general manager Larry Riley before being picked for the job. Riley said the decision was unanimous throughout the organization that Jackson’s attributes outweighed his inexperience.
“It was his analysis of the game and the way he sees the game overall in our discussions that really convinced me this guy has thought about the game of basketball,” Riley said. “I think he’s been yearning to be a head coach for a long time. Some guys sit back and say, ‘I can be a head coach.’ I think he’s been preparing all along for the day when he can be a head coach in this league. It isn’t something he had a dream about.”
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.
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.
“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 brought in West as a consultant last month and former agent Bob Myers as assistant general manager and GM in waiting in April.
“He has a strong personality, not abrasive, but he has a strong personality and should have the right mix to lead our team,” Riley said. “I think he’ll be a guy who will relate to our team. That’s important. That was part of this decision. That was an ingredient we were looking for. Not only can he relate to the team, he can get the point across and get results.”
By Douglas Holtz-Eakin
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