“Steve Kerr has done an outstanding job… He deserves a lot of credit. While giving him credit, there’s no need to take credit away from the past. You cannot disrespect the caterpillar and rave about the butterfly.”
That was ABC commentator Mark Jackson during a February broadcast of a game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, the team from which he was fired as coach following the 2013-2014 season.
Jackson’s departure from Golden State was something close to outright contentious. Owner Joe Lacob threw his former coach under the bus over the offseason, claiming that Jackson was unable to get along with vast majority of organization employees. And the preacher has fired right back, frequently saying he’s “praying for” Lacob and the Warriors in general while delivering sermons at his church in Los Angeles.
But Jackson’s caterpillar-butterfly line still sticks out in this tepid war of words between he and Golden State management, mostly because it was entirely unnecessary in the first place. No one ever suggested that he didn’t play a prominent role in the Warriors’ rise from bottom-feeder to contender, a reality evidenced by him guiding the club to its first playoff appearance since 2007 during his second year on the bench in 2012-2013.
What was just as obvious as his influence, though, is that Golden State had outgrown Jackson by the time last season kicked-off. His stagnant offensive sets limited a team replete with playmakers, and his downright rocky relationship with franchise higher-ups and media members became increasingly problematic as the Warriors were suddenly a national draw.
Was the dismissal of a coach on his level of success unprecedented? Maybe. And also justifiable? Certainly.
There are sour grapes here, basically, and Jackson hasn’t been shy about tasting them publicly – a trend he continued on Thursday by endorsing James Harden for MVP over Stephen Curry.
Here’s the relevant quote from Jackson’s morning appearance on “The Dan Patrick Show,” courtesy of csnbayarea.com:
“I think there’s four guys in the discussion in LeBron, Westbrook, Curry and Harden,” Jackson said Thursday morning on the Dan Patrick Show. “If you twisted my arm today, I would probably vote for James Harden. And the reason why is because he singlehandedly has put that Houston Rockets team in position that they’re in today.
“It’d be tough. I think Steph Curry, I’m totally fine with, obviously, he’s my guy. I’m fine with selecting him. The season that he’s had has been incredible. Westbrook with 10 triple-doubles and carrying that team, injury prone, into the playoffs. LeBron being the best player in the world. But I think right now I would go with James Harden for what he’s done. And he’s stepped up his game defensively. He’s not a great defender, but he’s competing on the defensive end.”
Award opinions only matter so much at all; the voting is what decides a winner and nothing more. But the take of a clearly biased party?
Yeah. Go ahead and throw Jackson’s assessment out the window when making your MVP choice, balloters. Despite his strong relationship with Curry, we’d have been shocked if he threw any support Golden State’s way without having his hand forced by the eyes and ears of a television audience.
Jackson just isn’t the type to let bygones be bygones, a brash trait that directly contributed to his relative failure with the Warriors. Anointing Curry, remember, would essentially be anointing Lacob and GM Bob Myers by proxy. It was they who hired Kerr in Jackson’s place, and Kerr who has guided Steph and the ‘Dubs to statuses of MVP and title frontrunners, respectively – not Jackson.
Is that to say Harden wouldn’t be a worthy MVP honoree? Of course not. The Houston Rockets superstar is Curry’s biggest competition for the award, and rightfully so. He’s been brilliant in 2014-2015.
The only thing more surprising than a player other than Harden or Curry hoisting the Maurice Podoloff Trophy next month, though, would have been Jackson naming the latter as his choice – just more indication of his bitter and childish reaction to being fired with reasonable cause.