DALLAS, TX - JUNE 07: ESPN NBA analyst Mark Jackson talks on the phone on the court before Game Four of the 2011 NBA Finals between the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat at American Airlines Center on June 7, 2011 in Dallas, Texas. Jackson was named the head coach of the Golden State Warriors yesterday and will be the first head coaching job for the former NBA guard. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Mark Jackson's a new head coach with hopes of turning things around for his new team, a team that looked lost before his arrival. Then came the lockout. Sound familiar?
The NBA lockout is not something I like to talk, think or write about. I've even banned myself from even mentioning the Association by name on BASG. But I'm not personally locking out the NBA on SB Nation Bay Area since I have no jurisdiction over this site, so let's pretend the NBA owners and the players union reach an agreement -- even though that technically changes the genre of this post from "sports" to "science fiction."
When Jim Harbaugh finally got to coach his team after the NFL's labor stoppage, the expectations were incredibly low. Harbaugh had barely any time to prepare and a roster that wasn't drastically different than then one that won 6 games in 2010 and no more than 8 since 2002.
Now that the San Francisco 49ers have the second-best record in the NFL, their roster isn't filled with a bunch of disappointing players -- now the prevailing wisdom is that they had talented players who just needed the right situation (and coach) that could allow them to shine.
The Golden State Warriors also hired a new coach before their league had a chance to put everything on hold. Mark Jackson comes into a similar situation: middling team with some talented pieces that could theoretically get a lot better pretty fast if they started playing above average defense. When/if NBA games ever again occur, teams will probably face the same small window to prepare for the season that Harbaugh faced. Is it possible for Jackson to change the culture in Oakland, similar to how Harbaugh wiped away the Erickson/Nolan/Singletary era in about three weeks time?
There are several differences in the situations each coach face(d):
-- Harbaugh's incredible rise through the coaching ranks is nothing compared to Jackson's. Harbaugh was an assistant coach in the NFL (Quarterbacks Coach for the Oakland Raiders) before stints as a college head coach at San Diego and Stanford. Jackson's resume consists of announcing and being a so-called coach on the floor during his playing days, although it's hard to argue an NBA point guard is more of a "coach" than an NFL quarterback.
-- The 49ers have five former first-round picks on defense (Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, Carlos Rogers, Donte Whitner and Aldon Smith). Most NBA players were drafted in the first or second round, but the Warriors do have some talented players. Unfortunately, of the biggest names on their roster (Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis and David Lee), none are players known for being skilled defenders.
-- The 49ers are in a fairly weak division known as the NFC West. The Warriors are still in the Western Conference, which until we're led to believe differently is still pretty stacked, from the Mavericks to the Jazz.
What's similar is that both men are charismatic and secure in their convictions, they both signed on to coach talented, mentally battered teams, and they both faced the uncertainty that a labor stoppage creates. Harbaugh seems to have taken the altered playing field the NFL lockout created and thrived; hopefully someday we'll get to see what Jackson does, given the same chance.