Watching and listening to Mark Jackson lately reminds me of Ned Stark near the conclusion of the first season of "Game of Thrones." There's an air of resignation to him, an acceptance of the fact that this won't end well for him.
On the night the Golden State Warriors secured their second consecutive playoff berth, something this franchise has not done since 1991 and 1992, Jackson offered this fatalistic comment:
"It's not our goal to just be a playoff basketball team," Jackson said. "We want to chase the mark of winning, set a standard for the next group of Warriors -- players, coaches, whoever -- down the road, and put the pressure on them."
The best present the Warriors have enjoyed in two decades and he's already talking about the Warriors of the future? Maybe it's because he realizes it won't be too long until his time with the Warriors is up. He has been around the NBA since 1987, experienced it on the court, the sidelines, the locker room and the broadcast table. He knows all the sights and sounds, and understands that sometimes the most telling thing of all is silence.
There has been nothing at all from the upper levels of Warriors management to curtail the speculation swirling around that the team isn't progressing at a satisfactory rate and nothing short of a trip to the conference finals would be enough for Jackson to keep his job. There certainly hasn't been news of the kind of lucrative contract extension that Don Nelson was able to parlay from his lone playoff trip with the Warriors during his last stint there. That leaves Jackson to ponder just like everyone else.
Begging would be a bad look. So would campaigning, so he simply states the achievements and leaves it to everyone else to interpret.
Jackson knows more about the dismissals of assistant coaches Brian Scalabrine and Darren Erman than he can tactfully or even legally disclose, although I've talked to enough other people to draw the conclusion that they were in "gots-to-go" situations. So while those moves scream dysfunction, Jackson has to remain quiet.
Once again, it leaves us to interpret the words Jackson does say publicly. I've noticed a change in those as well. It speaks to a sense of urgency. Usually he's the same guy you see in those mic'ed up huddles, constantly using positive reinforcement with his players. It's the way he was on Christmas night, when the Warriors trailed the Los Angeles Clippers 53-51 at halftime, and Jackson was walking back to the court for the start of the third quarter.
"We're fine," he insisted. He ran off the things that hadn't gone their way -- yet they still trailed by only two points."We're fine," he said again.
Indeed they were. They went on to win a contentious game.
There was a slight change in tone last Friday, the day after his team had blown a big lead to the Denver Nuggets and he was asked about the learning curve required for the team to become more like, say, the San Antonio Spurs.
"Hopefully the process speeds up, because we've got to figure that out," Jackson said. "We're getting too comfortable. At times we get too comfortable and you give teams life. It's happened more than once. Not to say it does not happen to the Spurs and other teams in this league, but it's not acceptable. We've got to find a way to close this thing out the right way."