Good morning, and Happy Tuesday everyone.
The Washington Wizards play the Golden State Warriors at 7 p.m. tonight at Verizon Center. You can watch the game on Comcast SportsNet (whether you're in the D.C. or the Bay Area). Bradley Beal still has a right leg injury, though I hope he plays soon. Even with Warriors point guard Stephen Curry being questionable due to a foot injury, let's face it. The Warriors are still favorites to win the game despite the fact that they lost to the Pacers, 104 to 98 last Sunday.
This won't be one of those run of the mill game previews however.
Last Sunday night, Bullets Forever community member _BenBecker wrote an excellent FanPost advocating that the Wizards should look to make a change at head coach, by comparing the Wizards' situation to the Warriors'.
In a nutshell, this is the analogy: Randy Wittman is like former Warriors head coach Mark Jackson, a defensive minded coach who helped turn around a perennially lottery-bound team into a playoff team that reached the second round. However, Wittman may be like Jackson who could only take the Warriors so far. The Warriors fired Jackson after the 2013-14 season and hired former Phoenix Suns GM Steve Kerr, who has led Golden State to a 43-10 record this season. The Wizards haven't fired Wittman yet, but there is a case to be made that terminating him, whether now or at the end of this season could lead the way for another head coach who could optimize the Wizards' strengths and take them even further in the playoffs.
So without further ado, here was our question (really, we had two) regarding that post and his response. We hope you enjoy.
Bullets Forever: We had a FanPost written last weekend comparing Randy Wittman to former Warriors Head Coach Mark Jackson. The post made a case that the Wizards should get their own "Steve Kerr" to lead them because Wittman may have run his course in Washington.
In your words, how has Kerr taken the Warriors to a totally new level this season? Are there any parallels between what the Warriors had with Jackson that the Wizards may have with Wittman?
Nate Parham: That's a really interesting question -- and kudos to _BenBecker for making some good points -- but I'm not sure there's an easy answer.
First, I have to preface my response by saying Jackson is still a somewhat divisive issue among Warriors fans: you can still find people who refuse to criticize Jackson for anything, preferring instead to focus solely on his merits; you'll find others who will point out that there was a racial dynamic at work in the rift between Jackson and the front office, as Marcus Thompson articulated/explored well. Then there's the very simple fact that they knew they were bringing in a novice when they hired Jackson, which demanded some tolerance for growing pains.
This might not be as divisive as the Monta Ellis-Stephen Curry debate -- you can STILL walk into Oracle and see people sporting Ellis jerseys -- but I struggle to remember a time when a fired coach cast such a long shadow over the next regime in the NBA and continued to be a topic of discussion for a playoff team well into the following campaign. So, from Day 1, I've been in the camp that while I was not a fan of Jackson, going from one novice to another was a massive risk for a team on the cusp of something special -- it's only in hindsight that I can say this was definitely the right move. That might color my thinking on this a bit.
More reads on GSW's coaches
The risk in firing Mark Jackson
•Golden State Of MindEven though the Golden State Warriors fired Mark Jackson at the end of the 2013-14 season, Nate questions whether it is worth the risk of hiring another possibly unknown coach to replace him.
More reads on GSW's coaches
But a few things do stand out as I sort through the analogy:
1. It's really hard to deny that Mark Jackson established a defensive culture that made Kerr's job easier. There's some dispute over whether that was Jackson or someone else, but he came in preaching that (pun not intended) from Day 1. So I ask this as a genuine question since I haven't followed the Wizards nearly as closely: what lasting impact on the franchise do you think Wittman might have?
2. On the offensive side of things, turnovers were a major part of the problem last year and while some of that was the result of offensive scheme, some of it was just carelessness on the part of players that has still cropped up from time to time this season. In other words, there are just some inherent personnel flaws that I don't think a coach can cover up and have been evident at times this year (and, honestly, make me nervous for their playoff run). Along those lines, you could throw in Andrew Bogut's health as a clear factor in Jackson's firing: if Bogut was healthy against the Clippers in the first round, the Warriors may well have won it and made it a lot harder to fire Jackson -- criticizing last year's team for being a one-and-done when they took the Clips to seven basically without a center rotation is really, really unfair; getting to seven was damn near a miracle itself.
3. Off the court, one of the major sources of conflict between Jackson and management was the debate about who he should have on his staff, which is when a lot of the controversy really came to the forefront; Kerr immediately brought in experienced assistants to complement him in Alvin Gentry and Ron Adams, which I think makes a world of difference in terms of his ability to be successful. That's an easy type of fix that Jackson could have made that just wasn't in his nature.
And if you're asking for the single biggest thing that I think Kerr has done well, I really do think it's that he's a collaborative leader who is willing to work with others and take input to make the best decision to the point where he brought in people who know significantly more than him about the craft of coaching; from what we know, Jackson wasn't willing to do that. And that isn't limited to what he has done with his staff -- to me that extends to the way he developed his offensive philosophy, taking the best of what he learned from the likes of Phil Jackson, Lute Olson, Gregg Popovich as a player to create an offense tailored to his personnel.
It's those soft skills that I see reflected in how he has handled Harrison Barnes (and Andre Iguodala, more importantly), helped Thompson, and his willingness to unleash Draymond Green as a starting stretch four.
So while I see the parallels between the two franchises and coaches, I'm not sure it's fair to either Wittman or Jackson to compare them directly against each other. But man...I could go on forever about that one issue because I do think we'll look back on this whole two season period as fascinating and pivotal for years to come.