Mike Malone is leaving the Warriors to become head coach of the Sacramento Kings.
Malone was the highest-paid assistant coach in the NBA his two seasons with the Warriors, with good reason. He was the best assistant coach in the league, and a certain amount of evidence says he, not Mark Jackson, coached the Warriors.
That last statement is both true and untrue.
Let's frame the Malone-Jackson discussion with a simple question: What effect will the departure of Malone have on Jackson and the Warriors?
It most definitely will have an effect. Malone was the Warriors' strategist. Jackson doesn't want you to believe that. It's a bad look when the head coach is not the strategy guy. You never in a million years could imagine the Spurs' Gregg Popovich ceding strategy decisions to someone else.
Jackson did. You've watched Warriors' games on TV. You've heard Jackson do the rah-rah routine during timeouts — he loves to put on the microphone so fans can hear him. Never once did he give his team a play. If you heard him outline a play, please write us an e-mail or send the Bat Signal over Northern California.
He talked about playing tough and not doing a Rope-A-Dope. Can someone please explain the relevance of Rope-A-Dope in hoops?
But when it came to an actual play, when it came to saying who would do what on an inbounds play with 34 seconds left in the fourth quarter and the Warriors down by one, it was Malone who took over, Malone who whipped out that little white board and started writing like mad with his Sharpie.
Note to Jackson: Please learn how to use a Sharpie.
Sure, Jackson gave Malone the general outline for what he wanted, and he stressed strong defense, something the Warriors needed so badly. But Malone was the detail guy. And you wonder if Jackson ever can be a detail guy, if he ever will experience the pleasure of calling a play that wins a game.
Jackson needs another Mike Malone or he will have trouble. The Warriors could go outside the organization for the detail guy, or they could promote assistants Pete Myers or Darren Erman. Erman is the dark horse in this competition but may be the real deal.
So, OK, Jackson has limitations and his constant rambling that God's hand touches the Warriors is mind-numbing. What, God hates the Heat? He gave them LeBron James. Lots of love there.
But there is a reason Warriors' owner Joe Lacob made Jackson the coach and didn't make Malone the head coach. Lacob has done just about everything right, and hiring Jackson as head man is one of those things.
You need to put the Jackson hiring in a historical context. Jackson succeeded the iconic Don Nelson, who wasn't so iconic his last season with the Warriors when he sure seemed to lose interest. Nelson was a great coach but he had issues. He was hyper-critical of players, could be sarcastic and worse and tended to demean rookies. He also played no defense.
Jackson was the corrective to all that. He is a charming, warm, positive man who constantly praises his players. He loves praising players and he loves to deflect praise from him to them. The players respect him and enjoy playing for him and play hard for him.