Mark Jackson Interview (at NBA Finals)

Here is the transcript from Mark Jackson’s interview with the media at the NBA Finals in Dallas.

Q. Mark, could you talk about the significance of hiring Michael Malone as your lead assistant, and what you hope he’ll bring to the table for you?

MARK JACKSON:  Well, first and foremost, it’s a great day.  Getting to Michael Malone, he’s a guy I’ve known for quite some time.  They gave me the opportunity to establish my own staff.  He’s the guy I’ve targeted throughout the course of not just this process but when I’ve interviewed before, we had an understanding that I would come after him.

So it is truly a great day in Warriorland to get a guy like Mike Malone.  Because I have tremendous respect for his passion, his knowledge, his commitment and he’s an extremely loyal guy.  So it’s a big‑time hire for us.

Q.  Just talk about the transition going from the booth to coaching.  I don’t know if you’ve talked to Doc Rivers at all, has there been anybody you’ve spoken to, maybe not just today, but you have been speaking to to pick their brain?

MARK JACKSON:  There’s been a lot of coaches that I know personally, as far as friendships and relationships, and then just in the process of interviewing coaches throughout the course of my years as far as an announcer.  Everybody knew what I wanted to do.  They’ve been extremely nice to me.  Whether you talk about these two coaches here, texting me in the middle of a championship series basically saying congratulations and how much they appreciate and was pulling for me.  It means so much to me.

So I got a lot of coaches, as far as ones that have helped me, even the ones that have coached me in the past.  Walking through the hallway during The Finals in the previous game, Pat Riley, who is a legendary Hall‑of‑Fame coach and a brilliant basketball mind, told me it’s my time.  And it’s only because he experienced me as a player and I experienced him as a coach.  Just great minds have really helped form who I am today as a basketball man.

Q.  Also, talk about your meeting with Lacob, what you learned from him and now learned about what I guess is a reformed Warrior franchise?

MARK JACKSON:  Being a New York City guy, you get the idea as soon as you meet somebody whether it’s on or it’s off.  Right away, as soon as we met, just an incredible, incredible guy, passionate, committed, loyal, focused, determined, and willing to spend.  Willing to do whatever it takes to win.  Right away we were really feeling the things that each of us were saying.  We enjoyed one another’s company and we left with a smile and almost a look as if to say, I’m going to see you again.

But it was really ‑‑ whether I got the job or not, I was totally committed and knew right away that this team was going to be successful.  And then today talking to Mr. Guber, as far as understanding his excitement level with the hire and how he signed on and how excited he was about it.  It’s a great day for me.  I’m truly thrilled, honored and blessed, and I look forward to the next challenge in my life.

Q.  Mark, the Warriors have played an up‑and‑down style, fast‑paced system for years.  The question has always been if they can compete defensively that way.  Do you see a move away from that under you?

MARK JACKSON:  Absolutely not.  We will push the basketball.  We will look to make plays in transition.  We will not just push it just to be pushing it.  We’ll have a mindset to take care of the basketball, to get quality looks.  But those looks are going to be earned on the defensive end.  You’re not going to have a license to shoot when you’re not getting it done on the other end.  They will be held accountable and there will be a price to pay.  I’ve come to the mindset that the only way to win in this league and win big is defensively.

So we will be committed on the defensive side of the ball.

Q.  Mark, Jerry West said in a recent interview that he thought the Warriors weren’t far away.  He pointed to the fact that they played a lot of close games last year but didn’t win.  What are your thoughts?

MARK JACKSON:  I agree.  When you look at that talent level, this is certainly a team that’s more than capable of making the playoffs and making a run.  No problem on the offensive end.  Can score the basketball.  Certainly got to get better with the ability to score on the low block where teams get quality points and easy points.  But that’s going to come.

But the main thing is the culture has to change.  Continue to play solid basketball.  You have to be a successful team at home, take care of your business and then compete on the road.  Inexcusable not to compete on the road.  There are things that will no longer be tolerated.  I’m excited about changing the culture in the Bay‑land.

Q.  Have you spoken to Monta or Steph?  And what do you think about that, I guess the pros and cons of a back court like that?

MARK JACKSON:  I don’t see any cons, other than size.  And I don’t think that really makes a difference.  I will play Lawyer right now and point to Exhibit A with J.J. Barea starting in the NBA Finals.  I would certainly say that the Warriors’ back court is bigger then the starting back court of the Dallas Mavericks tonight.

I think that’s an excuse.  The bottom line, do you have the heart, the will and the desire and the determination to go out and get it done by any means necessary?  And I truly believe that you got to make the commitment and find a way to get it done.  And that’s part of changing the culture.

We will find out who is willing to win, who really wants to win, or who is just going through the motions saying it.

Q.  Mark, with the draft just a few weeks away and such a short time since you were hired, has there been any discussion what your involvement will be with the draft?  Is it going to be more of a crash course for you?  Or talk about the plan there.

MARK JACKSON:  I will be very involved.  One thing during the interview process and our sitdowns across the board, I will have a say‑so.  Because at the end of the day, this will be Mark Jackson can’t coach or Mark Jackson can coach.  I want to be involved.  I respect the fact that these guys have done their due diligence.  I respect the fact that these guys have paid years of watching college players, high school players, and I’m going to respect their opinion.

But at the same time, I’m a fan of the game.  And I’m fully aware of these guys’ pros and cons, their strengths and their weaknesses.  And I love the idea of all of the guys that’s involved in this organization getting into a bunker and coming out united with the pick, a free agent, a draft choice, a style and going after it.

Q.  Mark, you just touched on changing the culture.  How do you change the culture of a franchise that’s been besieged with bad luck, with injuries, a kind of “here we go again.”  Going from that 35‑win to a 50‑win team.  That next step, how do you do that?

MARK JACKSON:  That’s a tough step, but I don’t believe in luck.  I believe in you prepare yourself for the moment.  Through habits formed every single day, all of a sudden you stumble into a playoff round.  You stumble into second round and third round.  You stumble into a championship.  No such thing as luck.  Talent and work ethic will put you in the position to win.

So ultimately the culture changes with great leadership.  I’ve been a leader my entire life and I’m not a guy that’s going to accept anything other than a total commitment from everybody that puts on a Warrior jersey and everybody that’s committed in this organization.

Q.  Mark, the issue that it seems the Warriors have had for a long time also is that the lack of size in the paint.  How much does that kind of play into when you look ahead to the future, the need for size?  I know you said you’re not going to change the way you play.  But how important is it then if you don’t have size to be a better defensive team?

MARK JACKSON:  I’d love to have size.  I would be sitting here lying to you if I said that size does not matter.  It certainly matters.  But once again, I’ll play Lawyer, Exhibit A, Tyson Chandler, Brendan Haywood, everybody else is minimum size.  So no more excuses.  Find a way to go out there and get it done by any means necessary.  We will not tolerate excuses.  We have a great rebounder in David Lee, one of the best in the business.  We have guards with tremendous athletic ability on the offensive end, which tells me you can go get some rebounds.  Collectively we will find a way to get it done.

Q.  What do you think the biggest challenge is for you in terms of this being your first coaching job beyond the X’s and O’s of getting acclimated to running an NBA franchise and one that’s been a loser for quite some time?

MARK JACKSON:  This is new to me.  I would be the first to tell you I don’t know everything.  I’m smart enough to know that I don’t know everything.  I’m smart enough to be secure enough to put people around me that can put me in position to be effective and to get the job done.  I’m an outstanding listener.  My assistant coaches will have a great voice.  I’m not a guy that’s going to put a muzzle on them.  I expect them to lead.  I expect them to coach, and I expect them to be an extension of me.  It’s going to be a good time.  And there’s not going to be any excuses from the coach on down.

Q.  Mark, what’s the process now of hiring assistant coaches?

MARK JACKSON:  For those of you who do not know, I believe we can make the announcement, the first hire was made:  Mike Malone is the lead assistant.  So we took care of that business.  Like I said already, extremely thrilled to have him on board.  I will continue to go through the process of talking to the proper people.  I don’t want to identify anybody, because with all due respect, some guys are working with different teams.  People that I have a relationship with.  People that I know, people that I respect and admire.  I want to bring them on board.

We’re going to look to put together a great, great staff of basketball minds.

Q.  I assume no matter how long this goes, you’re going to finish the Finals doing the broadcast.  Along with that, what’s the biggest challenge of not having coached before, getting on the sidelines without having done that?

MARK JACKSON:  I think some would say I’m naive, but I don’t think that’s a big deal.  I’ve been a leader my entire life.  Every team I ever played for, I was a leader.  I was really an extension of the coach on the floor.  And I know that’s a cliché, but it really was in in my position.  I was a guy that no coach ever told me what set to run offensively.  I ran the set, and they trusted in my ability to make reads and make calls.

I don’t think it’s going to be an issue.  It’s going to be an issue because I’ve never been put in the position to have to organize things every single day, day in and day out.  But ultimately as a challenge, and I’ve conquered every challenge in front of me with the help of the Good Lord, and I look forward to this one.

Q.  Will you have a defensive coordinator?  That seems to be a new trend in the NBA, an assistant who is the quote, unquote defensive coordinator.

MARK JACKSON:  I will be the voice.  I think that’s important to have a leader.  But we’ll have people that specialize.  I would be a fool to sit and tell you that Mike Brown ‑‑ forgive me, Mike Brown, to sit here and tell you Mike Malone won’t have anything to do with the defense.  In my mind he’s done an outstanding job and his record speaks for itself.  I will give him an opportunity to teach defense and to speak on behalf of the staff defensive mentalities, defensive principles.  I’m putting myself in the position to be successful by allowing those who have certain expertise to flourish.  Because Mike Malone and anybody else that I hire will have “head coach” written all over them.  They will be head coach material, whether they’ve been a head coach or not.  I am hiring the best in the business, in my opinion.

Q.  Okay, Mark, based on kind of what you’re saying about what you expect from your team, do you expect the Warriors to be a playoff team next year?  And if they’re not, would you consider that not a successful season for you?

MARK JACKSON:  Absolutely.  I fully expect ‑‑ put it in bold letters, the Golden State Warriors to be a playoff team next year.  If I did not expect that, I would not have taken the job.  And I won’t minimize it with just being a playoff team.  We are looking to turn the Bay Area upside down.

MARK JACKSON:  I just want to thank Mike Breen.  I get emotional.  Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy, Doris Burke.  Thank you.

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Marcus Thompson