Mark Jack

While it remains unclear exactly which person deserves coaching credit for the Golden State Warriors’ 20-0 start, it would seem rather obvious that your coaches boil down to one of the two coaches actually employed by the franchise and currently on staff.

Leave it to Stephen A. Smith to take obvious and give it a big, fat OH REALLY?

During a recent episode of his radio program, Smith says the credit for the team’s amazing start belongs to former coach Mark Jackson, who was fired from the team all the way back in May 2014. And in typical Stephen A. Smith fashion, he didn’t say it, he yelled it.

Smith’s gist is that if you’re going to credit anyone for how good Steph Curry is, it’s Jackson for “helping to guide and tutor him, and more importantly helped compile the bodies around him that assisted in his growth.” While it’s certainly true that Jackson, who spent three seasons with Golden State, was the coach during the franchise’s rebuild towards what it’s become, it’s another thing altogether to say Jackson has an effect on anything happening two seasons removed from his presence.

While Smith recognizes that Steve Kerr and Luke Walton have performed well, they’re getting way more credit than they deserve for what the players are accomplishing.

You gonna try to tell me that Luke Walton got something to do with Steph Curry pulling up from 30?! You gonna try to tell me that that’s play calling when Curry looks at Draymond Green standing to his right, literally dribbles and jukes guys, goes to Draymond’s left, ignores Draymond Green, boogies on two dudes, goes back to his right, steps back, pulls up a three?! Oh, that’s great coaching by Luke Walton, ain’t it! That’s really touching! Really?! REALLY?!

Do ya’ll know anything about basketball? Do you have any knowledge about basketball? Do you understand that when you are coaching talent like that with that ability to break down players and pull up literally from 30 — because, by the way, the three shots that Steph Curry hit last night from beyond 30 feet, nobody has done that in one single game ever! Ever!! EVER!!!”

As Deadspin’s Kevin Draper notes, the play that Smith calls out is actually an example of how Luke Walton is coaching his players well, perhaps even better than Jackson did.

“Kerr (and Walton) have designed an offense where Green is an effective escape valve in case Curry is pressured, resulting in opponents having to choose between guarding Curry straight up or having Green lead a 4-on-3. Back when Jackson was the coach, Curry would somewhat frequently get double-teamed and forced back towards halfcourt, nowhere to go. In fact, Jackson was a poor offensive coach, never figuring out how to get a team featuring three supremely talented scorers (Curry, Klay Thompson, David Lee) and three more superb passers (Green, Andrew Bogut, Andre Iguodala) to be any better than the 11th best offense in the league.”

Eventually Stephen A. gets to his point, questioning why Mark Jackson hasn’t gotten another head coaching position while other coaches like Luke Walton and Billy Donovan get jobs.
“This is what pisses off black people. This is what ticks us off. Luke Walton coaches 20 games in games he really doesn’t have to coach because of what Steph Curry and those boys are doing and he’s the golden boy. We got to talk about him getting a coaching job but Mark Jackson’s sitting on the sidelines, and he’s the one in large part responsible for constructing all of this. He was a part of that. And he can’t get another look because he wants to go to church on Sundays instead of being on the golf course, shmoozing with executives and sponsors. But Luke Walton basically gets to coast to an undefeated record over the first 20 games, and he’s the golden boy. Or Steve Kerr gets to inherit Mark Jackson’s team, he the golden boy.”
There’s certainly validity in what Smith is getting at, even if it’s impossible to argue with Golden State’s decision-making since firing Jackson and hiring Kerr. A discussion about the opportunities afforded to African-American coaches is a topic that’s not going anywhere, but it seems ludicrous to say that Luke Walton and the current Warriors team owe 100% of their success to a guy who hasn’t been there for 20 months.

About Sean Keeley

Sean Keeley is the creator of the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and author of 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and many other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle.

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