Man … way, way too much to write about on this night. Andrew Bogut’s injury. Stephen Curry going off yet again with a 30-point, 14-assist game. Draymond Green delivering career highs in points and rebounds — 20 and 12, respectively — and how about this number? Plus-27. David Lee, looking almost like the old David Lee after a rough start, hitting 12 of 14 shots from the floor. Klay Thompson coming up with another marvelous two-way performance. And we’ll give a nod to the amazing Kevin Love, too, who scored 22 first-quarter points to shoot Minnesota out to a 19-point lead at one point and finishing with 40 in a losing cause.
But at the end of the day — and that phrasing is key here — it was all about Mark Jackson. At the final buzzer of Win No. 50, several of the heroes on this night made a beeline for the bench and swarmed their coach. They jumped up and down around him and made a point to demonstrate how much their sideline leader has been responsible for these 50 wins, and a second straight berth in the playoffs for the first time in 20 years.
Even Jackson seemed taken aback by the emotional demonstration as someone who, depending on who you want to believe, might be on his way out. Quite honestly, it’s tough to see that happening if Warriors management has any degree of sanity whatsoever. You’re going to alienate Curry right now? You’re going to upset the whole dynamic this team clearly has under Jackson, whose No. 1 strength these past two years has been making these guys believe they could be winners simply by showing unwavering faith in them.
But first, what was it like being in the middle of that celebration?
“I didn’t expect it,” Jackson said. “I saw them jumping up and down and I was like, `What are you guys up to?’ The next thing I knew, they were all around me and it got hot. Obviously, I love these guys to death. I appreciate everything they’ve done, the way they’ve conducted themselves, how they’ve fought and continue to fight. One thing I learned from my dad the last six months of his life is that you have to show emotion and appreciation. It’s all right for men to say `I love you,’ it’s all right to hug, it’s all right to embrace and it’s all right to cry. There’s no shame in my game. I’m going to celebrate every moment, and it’s going to make some people mad. But I wasn’t always like I am today, and I thank God for this group and this platform.”
For those who think all Jackson does is process corny cliches and over-effusive epithets, take another good read of those powerful words. That all came from the heart, and one can only imagine what types of words of inspiration he gives to his players in behind-closed-doors sessions. It’s no wonder he’s so beloved by the people who wear the uniforms, if not so much those who sit upstairs in the suits and ties. This is a man of character and substance. And he has molded a group of men who play and comport themselves with character and substance. It didn’t happen by accident.
Curry said the game-ending celebration was semi-spontaneous, but all along, it was something they wanted to do to drive home that point.
“It was fun,” he said. “It was his first 50-win season, and to celebrate that with him, you want to take that time out to acknowledge him because he’s been through a lot this season. Obviously, we have a new ownership group but they bring in this coach and in three years, this is what we’ve been able to do … it’s pretty remarkable. He has as much to do with that as anybody in this locker room.”
Draymond Green echoed those sentiments, noting, “What, this (50 wins) has been done 4-5 times in the team’s history? (fifth time in 68 years, to be exact). So don’t take it for granted, and especially, we wanted to celebrate it with Coach. We definitely support him. He put us in a great position to be successful, and to share that moment with him, it meant a lot. He’s just in his third year coaching, and to get 50 wins two years removed from getting 23, that’s special.”
Indeed, it is. Some fans can only see back as far as last week, but the long-timers know. This franchise has suffered mightily over the years, and Jackson really has delivered something special with his own unique blend of coaching savvy and movitational rhetoric — not to mention the attention he has paid to the significance of defense — but most of all with the genuine faith he expresses in his players.
In short, it’s hard to envision the future of the Warriors without him. You’re out of your mind if you even deign to try.