Mark Jackson fired by Warriors

Updated: May 7, 2014, 2:26 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Golden State Warriors have fired Mark Jackson, ending the franchise's most successful coaching tenure in the past two decades but also one filled with drama and distractions.

General manager Bob Myers thanked Jackson in a statement Tuesday for "his role in helping elevate this team into a better position than it was when he arrived nearly 36 months ago."

Myers said it was a difficult decision but that the Warriors "simply feel it's best to move in a different direction at this time."

"Thanks to the Warriors organization for the opportunity you gave me," Jackson said in a statement sent to ESPN. "Thanks to the great fans for all of your support!! Thank you to my players!! Who I love!! We accomplished a lot together!! I wish you all nothing but the best! God bless."

ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported Sunday that Steve Kerr and Stan Van Gundy would be at the top of Golden State's search list if Jackson were fired. A league source confirmed to ESPNNewYork.com's Ian Begley that the Warriors have already contacted Kerr. The Warriors are also expected to speak with former Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins, league sources told ESPN.

Sources close to the situation say the New York Knicks remain the favorite to land Kerr, thanks to the TNT broadcaster's close ties to new team president Phil Jackson. But Kerr also has strong relationships with Warriors owner Joe Lacob and team president Rick Welts, with whom he worked in Phoenix.

The San Jose Mercury News reported over the weekend that the Warriors have strong interest in Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg, but sources say the Warriors -- like the Minnesota Timberwolves -- are pessimistic about being able to lure him away from his alma mater.

Jackson went 121-109 in three seasons with the Warriors, a stint that will be remembered for the way he helped turn a perennially losing franchise into a consistent winner and the bold, bombastic way in which he did it.

He guaranteed Golden State would make the playoffs in his first season, but the Warriors finished 23-43 after the NBA labor lockout. They went 47-35 last season and had a memorable run to the second round of the playoffs, and they were 51-31 this season before losing to the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round.

The Warriors had not made the playoffs in consecutive years since the 1990-91 and 1991-92 seasons. They had made the playoffs once in 17 years before Jackson.

"Obviously (the decision) was not made exclusively on wins and losses," Lacob said.

Lacob compared the decision to replace Jackson to his work as a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley.

"There's a different CEO that may be required to achieve success at different stages of an organization's development," Lacob said. "When you're a startup company it's one thing, when you're a small-growth company it's one thing and when you're a mature company that's trying to reach a billion in sales -- or in this case win an NBA championship -- perhaps that's a different person. And we just felt overall we needed a different person."

Now the Warriors -- with the help of Jackson, Myers and an ownership group led by Lacob -- are in position to contend for several years behind a strong young core led by point guard Stephen Curry.

"Over the last three years, coach Jackson has challenged me as a player and person," Curry said in a statement. "His experience and guidance has helped each of us grow in this league... Can't thank him enough for all he did for me. I wish him all the best as he transitions to the next chapter."

Jackson, a former NBA point guard who had his best seasons with the Knicks and Indiana Pacers, had never been a head coach at any level when Lacob hired him away from the ESPN/ABC broadcast table in June 2011. An ordained minister away from the court, Jackson often spoke of his Christian beliefs and promised to turn the Warriors into one of the best defensive teams in the league and a perennial playoff contender -- and he did.

But Jackson's boisterous personality, at times, did not play well with Warriors management, his staff and -- to a much lesser extent -- his players, most of whom said they wanted him to return, especially Curry. Jackson's demeanor, which bordered on confidence and cockiness, might have ultimately cost him his job.

The pressure on Jackson began when the Warriors decided to pick up his contract option for the 2014-15 season last summer instead of negotiating a long-term deal as he had wanted. Management also encouraged Jackson to hire a strong tactician after top assistant Michael Malone, who had several disagreements with Jackson, left to become coach of the Sacramento Kings.

Instead, Jackson promoted Pete Myers and other assistants and hired Lindsey Hunter and Brian Scalabrine. While reports of rifts within the team surfaced on occasion, dismissing two assistants in a 12-day stretch before the playoffs perpetuated the idea that Jackson had fostered an environment of dysfunction, which Jackson repeatedly refuted.

[+] EnlargeMark Jackson
Rocky Widner/Getty ImagesMark Jackson had a 121-109 record in three successful yet abrasive seasons as Warriors coach.

The Warriors reassigned Scalabrine to the team's Development League affiliate in Santa Cruz on March 25 because of what Jackson called a "difference in philosophies." Then the Warriors fired Darren Erman on April 5 for reportedly recording conversations during coaches' meetings and discussions between coaches and players without their knowledge.

Lacob, who bought the Warriors for a then-NBA record $450 million in 2010 along with Peter Guber, never publicly supported Jackson beyond this season. The lack of support led to a lingering uncertainty that hovered over the team all season.

Several home losses to lesser teams frustrated Lacob more than anything and cost the Warriors a chance to earn anything more than the sixth playoff seed in the West, which they also had a year ago when they upset Denver in the first round before falling to San Antonio. The Warriors still showed a lot of fight -- and an ability to make adjustments -- with center Andrew Bogut out with a fractured right rib, pushing the third-seeded Clippers to seven games.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers said Jackson's firing proves things in the coaching game have changed.

"That means things are crazy," Rivers said. "George Karl was the coach of the year last year and got fired. Mark Jackson gets a team to multiple playoffs for the first time in a thousand years and gets fired. It's our job. We have a tough job. Everyone knows it now more than ever. ... Something has absolutely changed. I don't know what it is. Clearly the patience has changed. I don't know but there's definitely a change in thinking above us and it's hurting us."

Jackson said after the series that he never worried about his job.

"I work every single day with a passion and a commitment like it's my last," he said. "I'm trying to be a blessing to people. I'm trying to impact people, and that's the way I live my life. That's the way I coach. I don't get caught up in it. I'm totally confident and have total faith that, no matter what, I'm going to be fine, and that's even if I'm a full-time pastor. It's going to work out."

Information from ESPN.com's Marc Stein and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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