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Lowell Cohn: Warriors fire another assistant coach


Sort of a news flash. The Warriors fired assistant coach Darren Erman.

Less of a news flash. I don't know Darren Erman. Never spoke to him. Never been aware of him. Don't even remember seeing the guy.

Imagine my surprise on Saturday when I read the Warriors fired him.

Fired who?

But the "who" barely matters. It's the fact of the firing that boggles the mind. Now the Warriors have fired a second assistant coach less than two weeks after firing yet another assistant coach. The Warriors are on a roll.

First, it was Brian Scalabrine who was fired, except he wasn't technically fired. He got demoted to the Warriors' Development League team in Santa Cruz — a form of banishment — because head coach Mark Jackson doesn't like him or something along those lines. Bad look for the head coach.

Now, Erman is gone, not that I know Erman.

Why doesn't Cohn know Erman? Isn't it his job to know assistant coaches?

You bet it's my job. But Jackson doesn't make his assistants available to the media. Translated, that means we can't talk to them. Jackson won't allow it.

Why?

You got me. Maybe Jackson is a control freak. Maybe Jackson wants to be the only voice on his coaching staff — a highly unusual, not to mention eccentric and stringent requirement. Or maybe Jackson is sensitive and doesn't like to share the glory. The man is indeed highly sensitive, especially for a New Yorker. Someone needs to tell him sharing is a good quality.

All this means I wouldn't know Darren Erman if I knocked into him on Fourth Street. But he's Topic A for the Warriors right now.

On Saturday, Warriors' general manager Bob Myers issued this statement on giving Erman the heave-ho: "This is the type of decision that would be made across the board and irrespective of position within the organization. Obviously, the timing is unfortunate, but we hold all of our employees, whether in Basketball Operations or other aspects of the business, accountable for their actions and to the same standard. We move forward and thank Darren for his contributions."

Myers said Erman violated company policy, but went no further in clearing things up. What company policy?

It's important to understand and acknowledge that Jackson, who clearly did in Scalabrine, did not do in Erman. Or probably didn't do in Erman. This was a decision made over Jackson's pay grade and does not implicate the head coach. Let's say "apparently" does not implicate the head coach.

I can't personally vouch for Erman, not knowing a thing about him, but I can vouch for Myers. A man of the highest integrity. Honest. Straight shooter. Someone you can trust. If Myers — and owner Joe Lacob — say Erman had to go for whatever reasons, I don't doubt them and I don't assign blame to the organization, although I am aware that Jackson got into a serious scrape a few years back and the organization stuck by him. Why isn't it sticking by Erman? A mystery.

Although no one is assigning blame to the Warriors in "The Warriors vs. Erman," this does not mean all is well with the team. On the contrary, it is a very bad look when a team reassigns or fires two coaches in 12 days. That's one heck of an attrition rate.

It makes you wonder about the stability of the coaching staff which, according to my figures, is down to Jackson and three bench coaches. Maybe "stability" isn't the right word. How about "effectiveness?" You wonder if a team can be as effective as it needs to be when it has fewer assistant coaches than other teams and when its own assistant coaches are dropping like flies.

Which means other Warriors assistant coaches have to pick up the slack for Scalabrine and Erman — especially for Erman, who was the No.2 assistant and did a lot of planning for Jackson. When Mike Malone left for Sacramento after last season, Jackson promoted Erman. Whoever he is, Erman was a serious contributor.

The Warriors' regular season is almost over and the playoffs loom. Before I get to the playoffs, I need to tell you about Joe Louis. That's right, Joe Louis, greatest heavyweight who ever lived, or second greatest if you give Muhammad Ali the nod over him.

Louis was champ from 1937 to 1949, a long time. He made 25 title defenses and he ran through legitimate challengers so fast sometimes his opponents weren't so hot. He had to fight somebody, had to make money. Someone called his opponents "The Bum of the Month Club." Got that?

Well, the Warriors have their own Bum of the Month Club, although it's more like The Bum of the Day Club. They have only six games remaining, their final game on Wednesday, April 16 in Denver. Five opponents have losing records. Bums. You expect the Warriors to look like heroes the rest of the way, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson going absolutely nuts.

After a while, you'll forget the Warriors' assistant-coach saga. You'll forget the Warriors are, for whatever reason, assistant-coach challenged.

That doesn't mean there isn't a problem. And the problem could come up in the playoffs, probably will. The Warriors will play a quality team in the first round. It could be the L.A. Clippers. One assumes the Clippers, or whoever the opponent is, has the requisite number of coaches. One assumes the first-round opponent hasn't prepped for the playoffs by axing coaches at an alarming rate and issuing vague press releases and doing damage control.

Even if you give the Warriors the benefit of the doubt, even if you assume Erman's firing was warranted, even if you assume it does not reflect badly on Jackson, you are left with this. The Warriors are in chaos as they near the playoffs. Jackson's job security depends on the Warriors' doing well in the playoffs. The timing of this firing is just plain awful.

(For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.)