Mark Jackson is already an honorary member of the Detroit Pistons, even though he doesn’t know it.
Through his 17 year career, few players proved tougher mentally or physically on the court than Jackson. As a player for the New York Knicks, Jackson was a competitor who routinely demanded the best of his teammates, holding them accountable. Then, it was Jackson’s edginess that helped turn the Indiana Pacers into legitimate title contenders when he played there twice. If there was one player who could be a Bad Boy by proxy, Jackson would represent that man.
Going toe to toe with the toughest teams of the 80′s and 90′s was no easy feat, but the task hardened Jackson, and shaped the kind of coach he’d become. That man? A sometimes abrasive, tell it like it is personality not afraid of challenging players to reach and then exceed their potential. As a result of this mantra, the players he coached revered and respected him greatly.
Sometimes, things simply don’t work out organizationally. Personalities don’t mesh. Voices grow old and tired, even after three seasons. Vision changes. The Pistons should know, as Rick Carlisle’s tenure in Detroit met an almost identical end. Sometimes, people don’t get along in high-pressure environments. It didn’t mean Carlisle was any worse of a coach. He landed on his feet two other times, having playoff success with the Pacers and eventually winning the NBA title with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011.
What Jackson needs now like Carlisle needed in 2004 is his own soft landing in a quiet environment. For this reason, there’s no better spot than Detroit, a classic franchise which has been dormant for nearly seven years. Expectations are miniscule, fans are fed up and willing to support any personality and Jackson would be free to place his own imprint on the team free of the intensive scrutiny he faced.
The theory isn’t half-baked. Speaking Wednesday with Matt Dery of 105.1 FM, former Pistons’ guard and Warriors assistant Lindsey Hunter was succinct after he was asked if he could see a situation where Jackson, his old boss, might consider the Pistons job if it was offered to him.
“I could, I could,” Hunter said. “Especially with me trying to persuade him to (laughter). If that opportunity comes, I’m sure he’ll look at it. I’m sure he’ll get a lot of opportunities…”
A chance to start over with a fresh slate in a faraway new city should be the most appealing to Jackson at this point in time. Then, there’s the little matter of the players Detroit has that he could coach and impact. Hunter was direct when talking about the Pistons’ future personnel-wise, as well.
“Personally, I don’t think Detroit’s far away. I think they have a great young nucleus that could really grow if they’re groomed the right way,” Hunter said.
Why would the Pistons consider hiring Jackson after the drama? Not only the toughness, but the way he is respected by the players. Since Larry Brown left, no Pistons’ coach has commanded this level of admiration and praise. Hunter believes that the bond between Jackson and Golden State’s players was strong.
“Those guys loved coach Jackson, they loved our staff. And they laid it on the line every night for us.” Hunter said. “Coach Jackson is a great coach. All he wants to do is coach and win.”
After all the nonsense that’s gone on in Auburn Hills, that’s the type of person the Pistons’ front office should crave, new general manager on board or not; someone who’s main goals are coaching and winning. Add that to Jackson’s already Detroit-minded outlook and a winning combination could quickly come together.
Jackson will likely have his pick of better opportunities on the surface, but will perhaps find no better fit than a city and team which quietly embodies his same spirit and soul.
The Bad Boys. Goin’ to Work. It’s already long been a part of Jackson’s DNA, even though he hasn’t ever worn Pistons’ red, white and blue.
Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax