Mark Jackson is in an awfully peculiar position.
As an announcer for ESPN, the former head coach has a front-row seat to watch the Golden State Warriors, the team that fired him a year ago, make a thoroughly entertaining and dominant run through the playoffs. Jackson has handled the situation with professionalism and aplomb, though, and after watching the Dubs clinch a spot in the NBA finals, he admitted he was proud of his former team:
Some, such as Sacramento Kings wing Rudy Gay, felt that Jackson was put in an unfair spot, but once again, the former head coach expressed contentment with his current position:
— Mark Jackson (@MarkJackson13) May 28, 2015
Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about Jackson, one of the most compelling figures of the NBA finals.
1. He Spent 17 Seasons in the NBA & Started Over 1,000 Games
Jackson, who was born in Brooklyn and went to college at St. John’s, was drafted by the hometown New York Knicks with the 18th pick in the 1987 draft. He immediately served as a steadying presence for the struggling Knicks, averaging 13.6 points, 10.6 assists and 2.5 steals on his way to Rookie of the Year honors. During his five seasons with New York, the Knicks made five playoff appearances and went to the Eastern Conference semifinals three times.
After helping the Los Angeles Clippers to two consecutive postseason appearances (the franchise’s first in 15 years), Jackson joined the Indiana Pacers to help form the Chicago Bulls’ greatest Eastern Conference threat for the second half of the 1990’s.
Although he only made one All-Star game, Jackson, one of the best pass-first point guards of his generation, enjoyed massive team success and currently ranks fourth on the all-time assists list.
2. He Coached the Golden State Warriors for 3 Seasons
In June of 2011, Jackson was hired to be the head coach of the Golden State Warriors. In three seasons, he compiled a record of 121-109 (.526). After a shaky first season under Jackson, the Warriors made two straight playoff appearances, marking the first such occurrence since the days of Chris Mullin and Don Nelson in 1992. The team improved each season, surpassed 50 wins for the first time since 1994 and was seemingly climbing the ladder in the West.
Then Jackson was fired.
It was a surprising decision, but Warriors owner Joe Lacob, via ESPN.com, had his reasoning:
Obviously (the decision) was not made exclusively on wins and losses. There’s a different CEO that may be required to achieve success at different stages of an organization’s development. When you’re a startup company it’s one thing, when you’re a small-growth company it’s one thing and when you’re a mature company that’s trying to reach a billion in sales — or in this case win an NBA championship — perhaps that’s a different person. And we just felt overall we needed a different person.
Lacob’s reasoning was quickly justified, as new head coach Steve Kerr guided the Warriors to a whopping 67 wins and has them in contention for the franchise’s first championship in 40 years.
3. He Works as a Commentator for ESPN & ABC
After he retired as a player in 2004, Jackson became a commentator for ESPN and ABC, working alongside Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Breen as part of a team that became a mainstay for NBA finals broadcasts for several years. Following his dismissal from the Warriors, he immediately signed a multi-year agreement for the same position, making his return to the air during the 2014 Eastern Conference finals.
With memorable phrases such as “mama, there goes that man” and “hand down, man down,” Jackson has become one of the most recognizable voices in the NBA. And with that high-profile job, he has taken the opportunity to fire some shots at his old team.
“I don’t know if Pop (San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich) heard, but losing a Game 7 on the road to the Clippers can cost you your job,” said Jackson, whose fate was decided by a similar loss in 2014.
4. He Is Married With 4 Children
Jackson wed Desiree Coleman in 1990 and the couple has since had four children together. The oldest, Mark Jackson, Jr., spent two seasons playing basketball at Louisville under Rick Pitino (his dad’s former head coach) before transferring to Manhattan College. He played sparingly for the Jaspers in 2012-13, averaging 1.2 points per game.
Jackson, Sr. also had a brother with an extensive basketball career. Troy Jackson spent two seasons at Louisville, but he made his fame playing under the name “Escalade” as a streetballer for And 1. He died in 2011 at the age of 35.
5. A Former Stripper Targeted Him for Extortion
In 2012, news surfaced that Jackson had an affair with Alexis Adams, a former stripper, six years earlier. According to the report, Adams owned nude photos of Jackson and threatened to make them public unless he paid her.
Jackson paid $5,000 to Adams and co-conspirator Marcus Shaw, but when the couple demanded money in the six figures, he came clean. The Warriors contacted the FBI, and the couple was charged with extortion.