OAKLAND — The Warriors fired head coach Mark Jackson on Tuesday after he led them to two straight playoff appearances.
Jackson’s firing came after the Warriors won 51 games in his third season and fell to the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the playoffs following a Game 7 loss three days earlier.
But with one year left on his contract and neither side wanting a lame-duck situation, Jackson was fired after what general manager Bob Myers said was a carefully-made, difficult, yet unanimous decision among team executives who discussed the matter extensively since the end of the season.
“Mark did win, but moving forward, we want to continue to win and win in bigger ways if we can,” Myers said. “That’s what people expect. That’s what we expect.”
Differences emerged between Jackson, who can be brash, and an organization with relatively new ownership that had expectations beyond a No. 6 seed in the Western Conference. Co-owner Joe Lacob described his concerns about home losses in February. Two of Jackson’s assistant coaches abruptly departed before the Warriors’ playoff run, with Darren Erman being fired after reportedly secretly recording team-oriented conversations.
“I think Mark in his next job probably needs to do a better job managing up and sideways, is one way to put it,” Lacob said, adding that a 51-win season while not unsatisfactory did not meet the organization’s goals.
Said Myers: “When you factor in everything, the totality in regards to Mark, although he accomplished quite a bit, we wanted to move in a direction where maybe we were possibly more aligned as an organization entirely.”
Steve Kerr, the TNT broadcaster and five-time NBA champion, could receive an interview for the job, according to his friend Lacob.
“I’ve known him for 20 years,” Lacob said, adding he would consider a second straight coach with no coaching experience. “I think very highly of him as an individual — a great human being as well as a great basketball mind, I believe, and a great pedigree.”
Myers said a coach who embodied the values and core beliefs of the organization and one who had success with working with ownership and management would be desirable for the franchise’s next hire.
“I would put this up there against any vacant job right now in the league as far as its attractiveness,” Myers said.
Said Lacob: “The next coach that comes in, the expectations will probably — forget from us, but from everybody — probably will be high. That’s life.
“I think someone who comes in and is scared of that probably isn’t the right person for the job.”
Jackson, 49, compiled a 121-109 record in three seasons, ranking fourth on the franchise’s all-time wins list. He was informed of his firing at a 90-minute morning meeting that he said was “respectful.”
“It was very positive,” Lacob said. “And I think instructive for him and for us, what we both could do better maybe in another situation, another time.”
The Warriors’ 51 wins this season were tied for the third-most in franchise history, allowing them to make the playoffs for a second straight year for the first time since 1992.
“We just didn’t excel at the level that we had hoped to,” Lacob said, adding Jackson would agree they all expected to do a little bit better.
Jackson, who often spoke of a culture he had to help change in order to reach heights not seen in decades, said the season was “taxing and draining.”
“We accomplished a lot in three years and we should be proud,” Jackson said. “I wish them nothing but the best.
“But to me, now the pressure’s on for them to get a championship. It’s not the time for them to be patient any more. This is a championship-caliber team.”
Myers, who grew up a Warriors fans, acknowledged that fans might jump to conclusions on a controversial firing based on the franchise’s past woes.
“Trust us,” he said. “We are moving in the right direction.”
Trust was what Myers said every Warriors player he got in touch with in wake of Jackson’s firing expressed in the organization. Many had publicly supported Jackson, including most notably star guard Stephen Curry, who Myers said he did not consult before the decision was made.
“Over the past three years, Coach Jackson has challenged me as a player and person,” Curry said in a statement. “His experience and guidance has helped each of us grow in this league. Can’t thank him enough for all he did for me. I wish him all the best as he transitions to the next chapter.”
Said Myers: “We believe after speaking to him, we know he’s going to play hard whoever the next coach is. He recognizes that the organization has been a part of his success as has Mark Jackson. But ultimately, he does trust us.”
–Tim Kawakami contributed to this report.