Mark Jackson Fights Inexperience in Seeking Head Coaching Job
Since Jackson is currently in the interview process for a head coaching position -- most recently with the Atlanta Hawks, as reported by FanHouse's Sam Amick -- this may seem like a legitimate concern.
In another exclusive interview with FanHouse on Saturday, however, Jackson did his best to put those concerns to rest. While he did agree that a team would have to make somewhat of a leap of faith if it gave him a head coaching position with his lack of experience specifically in that role, Jackson also pointed out some similar cases where the lack of experience wasn't even remotely an issue.
"I think it depends on who's doing the hiring," Jackson said. "I think you've got great examples of it, just like any other hire. And then you have examples where it didn't work. Doc Rivers was hired with no experience, and he's as good as it gets as coaching goes.
"So I think it's just a question of who you hire. I understand the leap of taking that chance, but hiring anybody requires a leap and taking a chance. Unless it's Phil Jackson, or other coaches with great history."
Hubie Brown, who was a head coach in the ABA and NBA for a combined 15 seasons and who also is on the ESPN/ABC broadcasting team, said that hiring a head coach who doesn't have any experience is understandably something a team might be concerned with. But that doesn't mean that it can't work, especially if the person surrounds himself with some quality assistants.
"Well, there aren't any rules on that," Brown said. "I mean, what Larry Bird did in Indiana, he brought in a defensive guy and he brought in an offensive guy. Now, they ran both ends of the floor, he micromanaged. When Isiah Thomas got his job, that's exactly what he did -- no previous experience at all.
"Well, the problem is, you've got to get someone to believe that you can do that, and surround yourself," Brown continued. "Where you get into trouble, anytime you get a job, is when you get a job and surround yourself with guys who like you, and who will say everything you want. But they can't teach. And they can't help you. But see, you like it, because they're not a threat. They're not a threat to your job, because you know more than them.
"It comes down to whether an owner or a general manager who's making decisions feels that you can do it, even though you've never coached a game in your life. 'Don't tell me about what you did as a player, I've got millions and millions of dollars involved here. Where's your credibility?' So, that's the other side of it."
Jackson seemed to recognize the importance of building a strong staff of assistant coaches if and when he gets his opportunity, but at the same time, he doesn't want to bring anyone on who would contribute some name value to his situation, but little else.
"It's important to surround yourself with qualified people," Jackson said. "The question is, who's qualified? Do you get a name just to get a name because it's a sexy name to have next to you, or do you get a guy that is going to work and is qualified to put you in position to be successful?
"It's important to surround yourself with people who are as smart or smarter than you, and who will put you in a position to be successful. And that makes sense to me, whether it's a brand new coach or a veteran coach. I think if you're Jeff Van Gundy, you hire Patrick Ewing on your bench for a reason. Because he brings something on a different level that enhances you as a coach. So it's just a smart thing to do."
No matter how good of a job Jackson does in filling out his coaching staff, the reality is that if he's the head coach, the players will ultimately look to him to have that strong leadership presence. So besides his wealth of knowledge of the game, what are some of the other qualities that Jackson would be able to bring to the table if he gets his chance?
"I'm a guy who takes pride in being a leader," Jackson said. "I was a guy who was an extension of the coach no matter where I played, and I take pride in getting the most out of everybody around me, including myself. And I'm a student of the game. I had the luxury of playing under five or six Hall of Fame coaches, and I was smart enough to know what to steal from them, meaning taking from each and every one of them what they did great, and what I thought they didn't do well."
Jackson knows that being a head coach in the league won't be easy, but that's what interests him about the opportunity: the challenge. And when asked what the greatest challenge would be once he gets that opportunity, being a former player, his answer didn't come as much of a surprise.
"I think for any coach, the challenge is to keep it fresh," Jackson said. "That's any coach. To make sure the message doesn't get stale. To get your team to play hard all the time, and to compete."
And how would Jackson go about doing that?
"You get it done by preparing yourself, by getting into proper habits, and that starts every day in practice," Jackson said. "It starts in the preseason, it starts in the summer, where you accept nothing short of leaving it on the floor. And then the next night, leaving it on the floor. You get into the habit of accepting nothing short of that. And all of a sudden, that mentality, that approach becomes contagious to where it's not just one guy thinking that way, but it's 12-15 guys thinking that way.
"It's a challenge for anybody, and it's a challenge that intrigues and excites me."