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Warriors coach Mark Jackson juggles roles as coach, ordained minister

  • Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson, who is also a pastor, preaches to those who have made a commitment to Jesus during a Fellowship Night, following a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Oracle Arena, in Oakland on Friday, March 14, 2014. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

OAKLAND — During this frustratingly unpredictable season for the Golden State Warriors, few on-court stumbles were more galling than a 103-94 home loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on March 14.

After that game, coach Mark Jackson proceeded to an interview room and addressed the media in even, direct tones. He didn't pound the table. He didn't hang his head.

"We just didn't get after it like we normally do," Jackson said.

Less than 10 minutes later, Jackson was back on the court, not to unwind or to deconstruct the game with his assistants, but to preside over Fellowship Night, an annual Christian gathering at Oracle Arena. About 1,200 people had stuck around after the game, and by now had drifted to the southwest corner of the facility to listen to Jackson preach the gospel.

The setting was anything but intimate. The court was bathed in stark arena lighting, and colorful electronic messages scrolled everywhere. The final score remained on the scoreboard, the clock frozen at 00.0. A cleaning crew wound its way through the rows of empty seats, but Jackson seemed unaware of anything but his audience.

He didn't need any warm-up shots, either. In an instant, Coach Jackson had become Pastor Mark.

"Somebody say, 'Thank you, Lord,'" Jackson urged into his microphone after a very brief introduction, and they did.

"Come on, now. Somebody say, 'Thank you, Lord,'" he repeated, and they did, louder this time.

"I know some folks that would have lost the game and not showed up," Jackson boomed, his deep voice rising. "I said, I know some folks that would have made some mistakes, lost the game and would not have showed up."

Jackson's listeners seemed thrilled he was presiding. They were diverse in age and ethnicity, and they greeted his sermon enthusiastically, calling out words of praise and completing Bible verses for him when called upon. Some filmed Jackson with their cell phones. The service lasted more than an hour.

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