Former Warriors assistant coach Brian Scalabrine detailed how he was forced off Mark Jackson’s staff during a tumultuous 2013-14 season in an interview on The Vertical Podcast with Adrian Wojnarowski released Wednesday.
Scalabrine spoke about the events during and after the Warriors’ 99-90 loss at home on March 22 to the San Antonio Spurs, who were missing Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, that precipitated his dismissal.
Asked after the game if there was a reason for a longer-than-usual arrival to his postgame press conference, Jackson said, “No, just talking, that’s all…I was talking to my staff. We were just talking basketball. That’s all.”
Scalabrine shed light on how much more there was to it than that behind closed doors, with an argument that began at a halftime coaches’ meeting.
“The Spurs were my scout,” he said. “We talked about this one thing we needed to do, and I thought that (Andrew) Bogut did a good job of getting to where he needed to go. But in the coaches’ meeting – which just happens a lot, it’s just the way sports is – there’s a lot of bashing Bogut on this particular play. It’s really insignificant when you think about it. It’s a cumulative effect of all this.
“Me and one of the other assistant coaches, all I wanted to do was not jump to a conclusion. I wanted to watch the clip that we were talking about, which means watch the tape, right? And they wouldn’t put it on. So I was like, ‘Let’s just watch the tape, and let’s figure it out. I don’t want to argue. Let’s watch the tape.’
“Afterwards, it’s a big thing. Like we’re having a meeting afterwards, and we’re going to clear the air here (with Mark Jackson). He’s the leader, so we had this meeting of clearing the air, and the meeting was, it was like a bombardment of he’s trying to like get everyone to say that I’m a bad guy, and I’m a bad coach, and I should be off the staff. I’m not sure what the point of it is, but just imagine an emotional loss after the Spurs, and he goes to every coach and says, ‘Should Scalabrine be here? Is he a bad guy? Is he disrespectful?’ Or whatever he said. And what is an (assistant) coach going to do? You’re like some low-level coach, and Mark is your boss, and is Scalabrine disrespectful? Of course you’re going to say ‘yes.’ So every person was like ‘yeah.’ So then he brought in management and did the same thing. So we have a meeting where it’s me versus coaches and management. We’re talking about Bob (Myers) and the assistant GM and the owner’s son (Kirk Lacob). And my whole thing was like, ‘I think there’s a time and place for this, right? Can’t we do this in a different time?’”
Three days later, Scalabrine was essentially fired from Jackson’s staff and reassigned to the team’s NBA Development League affiliate in Santa Cruz following another meeting with Jackson.
“The Spurs thing I could understand,” Scalabrine said. “It was emotional, but three days later, my exit meeting with Mark is the most legendary thing of all of this. So I have to have this meeting, and I’ve got to basically according to Bob Myers – which I agree with him – I’ve got to apologize for what I said. At the end of the day, he is still the head coach. I am still the assistant coach, and I got to apologize for I guess assuming that we should watch tape (of the play), whatever. So I go in there and I apologize.
“Clearly you could see there was a lot of dysfunction, whatever. But his exit meeting comes into basically Mark saying like, ‘I’ve got to let you go.’ And me on the same time basically saying, ‘You know there’s only 11 games left (before the playoffs).’ Like not only am I worried about my reputation, and I’m not really worried about his reputation. I’m just kind of informing him like you don’t come out squeaky clean on something like this. You don’t just along the way just like dismiss one of your assistant coaches and think that nothing is going to happen. Like, there’s still going to be some fallout from this. Then we started getting into the talk of team and how I thought that they were really good, and he thought that they were not good as they really are. And at the end of the day, I got fired, and I went to the D League, and it was an adventure. The biggest thing I was like so surprised about was I had another year on my deal, and I offered. I said, ‘Listen, you can have all your money back. If you’re back next year, I’ll just go and do something else. It’s totally fine. This is not a good fit for me and you. But along the way, we don’t have ruin my reputation nor do we have to ruin your reputation.’ As a way of pleading to him like, ‘Do not do this, right?’ No. Didn’t care.”
Afterward, Wojnarowski broke the news of Scalabrine’s forced reassignment and wrote of the Warriors’ “increasingly dysfunctional atmosphere.” The story set the tone for the rest of the season even as Jackson denied the dysfunction.
Scalabrine said he had championship expectations for the Warriors when he decided to join Jackson, whom he said he was “really close friends” with before his arrival at Golden State.
“I thought that we would win it, and I thought that team was unbelievable, and I knew about a month-and-a-half in that we just didn’t have what it takes,” Scalabrine said. “We weren’t disciplined enough. We didn’t push and grind the way we have to grind to win. Now, we had what it takes to win, but there is an element of uncomfortable-ness and being comfortable with uncomfortable-ness that we just never really went into from a coaches-to-players standpoint.”
After the Warriors’ first-round playoff series loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, Jackson was fired. He told SiriusXM afterward Scalabrine for weeks had showed him “disrespect.” Neither he nor Scalabrine have coached since then.
Also on Wednesday, Bogut appeared on a SiriusXM radio show with his former position coach Scalabrine as the co-host and spoke about his lone season as an NBA coach.
“The thing that I respected about Brian was he marches to his own drum,” Bogut said. “He’s not a follower, so he stuck to his principles and what he believed in, and I’m a similar type guy. He doesn’t buy into what the crowd is saying, so we kind of had a relationship based upon that where we were kind of our own people and didn’t follow what other people were doing.
“He was the first NBA coach to get sent to the D League, though,” Bogut added, laughing. “So it was kind of a record. He got a D League assignment as a coach. At least he set a record when he was coaching.”