The 2017-2018 NBA season is in the stretch run mode as the playoffs are right around the corner. And as we have a pretty good idea who the title contenders are, there are also those teams that have underachieved so far. The Milwaukee Bucks and Washington Wizards currently have winning records, but they were each expected to be better than what they currently are. The Bucks are 33-26 which is good enough for third place in the Central Division, while the Wizards are in first place in the Southeast Division as they are attempting to hold off the pesky Miami Heat. In the case of the Bucks, their inconsistency has already cost Jason Kidd his job as the team’s head coach as he was fired last month. However the Bucks are not alone as the Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies also parted with their respective head coaches in Earl Watson and Dave Fizdale earlier this season. And with several other teams expected to make head coaching changes this summer, there is one former NBA head coach who could once again become a wanted man.
For three seasons Mark Jackson was the head coach of the Golden State Warriors. In that time Jackson helped the Warriors to become a playoff contender as they qualified for the postseason two times on his watch. However Jackson clashed with the Warriors front office; specifically with Jerry West who at the time was serving as a consultant for the team. The Warriors replaced Jackson with Steve Kerr, and since then Golden State has won two of the last three NBA Titles, while they are in contention to win it all again this June. Jackson currently provides color commentary on nationally televised NBA games on ABC and ESPN and he appears to be very comfortable in his role. But there are those that feel that Jackson got a raw deal with Golden State, and if he ever wanted to re-enter the head coaching ranks in the NBA, this could be the perfect time to do so as he could hand pick the best opportunity for him.
Aside from the Suns, Bucks, and Grizzlies who could be looking a new head coach, teams to keep an eye on this summer in regards to making head coaching changes will be the New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers.
Jackson is very familiar with the Knicks as was drafted by the franchise in 1987. Jackson’s first run with the Knicks lasted six seasons which included him being named as the NBA’s Rookie of the Year in 1988. In seven seasons with the Knicks, Jackson averaged 11.1 points and 8 assists as the local kid from Brooklyn got the opportunity to play for the team that he grew up watching.
Currently the Knicks are 24-37 as the playoffs appear to be a long shot for them. The Knicks are 6-19 since the beginning of 2018, and star power forward Kristaps Porzingis tearing his ACL earlier this month has not helped their cause. But in spite of Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek not having the services of Kristaps Porzingis, there is the possibility that the Knicks could move on from their head coach at the end of the season.
On paper the idea of Jackson becoming the head coach of the Knicks sounds good as he knows all about playing basketball in New York City, and more importantly at Madison Square Garden. Aside from playing for the Knicks, Jackson also played collegiately for the St. John’s Red Storm who play the bulk of their home games at MSG. Jackson also has a proven track record to help turnaround franchises that have fallen by the wayside which is the current state that the Knicks are in. But at the end of the day, it is the Knicks that we are talking about, and if Basketball Hall of Famers such as Lenny Wilkens, Isiah Thomas, and Phil Jackson could not turn things in around in the Big Apple, can we expect anything better if Jackson was calling the shots?
Then there are the Cavs who could find themselves in an awkward position. Star small forward LeBron James can opt-out of his contract this summer and the Cavaliers cannot afford to lose him again like they did in 2010 as this organization is doing everything in its power to keep him happy. After a disastrous first half of the NBA season for James’ standards, Cavaliers general manager Koby Altmann was playing “Let’s Make A Deal” prior to the NBA’s Trade Deadline. Altmann was able to get rid of malcontents on the Cavaliers such as point guard Isaiah Thomas and small forward Jae Crowder. And in return the Cavs were able to get back forward Larry Nance Jr., and guard Jordan Clarkson from the Los Angeles Lakers, while they picked up swingman Rodney Hood from the Utah Jazz, and point guard George Hill from the Sacramento Kings. Since the Cavs made these moves they are 4-2, but their biggest challenge will come in the postseason as that is where they will be judged. And if the Cavaliers fail to win an NBA Title this year, would the franchise move on from head coach Tyronn Lue?
Lue and James won a championship together in 2016, but the head coach could become the fall guy if the Cavs fall short in the playoffs again; especially if they are trying to appease James. And if the Cavaliers were ready to move on from Lue, Jackson is someone who James respects which could go a long way in order for him to remain in Cleveland.
But at the end of the day it will be Jackson who’ll call the shots in regards to his future. The lower-tier teams in the NBA such as such as the Suns and Grizzlies won’t be on radar for Jackson as those are two franchises that have a myriad of issues. However if the Bucks feel that current interim head coach Joe Prunty is not in their long-term plans, they could move on from him. Jackson could be enticed to join the Bucks due to the team’s wealth of young talent which includes All-Star small forward Giannis Antentokounmpo. And even with all of that Jackson could say no as the politics of his first time around in the coaching profession might have been enough for him, while he might still enjoy the piece of mind that he gets from being a color commentator.