Mark Jackson had never coached before the Golden State Warriors tabbed him as their head man two years ago, a move that surprised many. But Jackson quickly ascended into a winning coach, taking a downtrodden club and making it one of the most exciting teams in the NBA last season.
Jackson’s way – heart-to-heart, candid communication – won over his players, and they performed under him at a high level. So much so that the team picked up the option on Jackson’s contract for the 2014-15 season on Wednesday.
The move prevents Jackson from feeling as if he were coaching in a lame-duck situation the upcoming season, while also allowing more time for the sides to create a long-term deal for the former point guard of the New York Knicks, Indiana Pacers and Los Angeles Clippers.
“I trust in God. I’m in the best hands possible, and I don’t mean Arn Tellem,” the ordained minister joked after the season ended in May. By then, his team had already upset the Denver Nuggets in the playoffs, solidifying his stature as an up-and-coming star coach.
He took the Warriors from a 23-43 record during the lockout-shortened season his first year to a 47-35 team that earned the Western Conference’s sixth seed and eliminated Denver in the first round of the playoffs. The eventual conference champion San Antonio Spurs knocked Golden State out in six games in the second round.
The Warriors posted the second-highest winning percentage improvement behind Brooklyn. Golden State also is positioned for more success with point guard Stephen Curry anchoring a collection of promising young talent, and Jackson made it work. His players trusted him and his solid career as a point guard in the league gave him credibility.