Golden State will be making its second consecutive Finals appearance in as many tries when they face Cleveland Thursday in a rematch of last year’s championship series. The Warriors won a NBA record 73 games in the regular season, and became only the 10th team in league history to win a conference series from a 3-1 deficit to advance to the finals.
Former NBA head coach Jeff Van Gundy said during a May 31 media conference call, that included the MSR that Mark Jackson, the Golden State former head coach, hasn’t been given enough credit for what he did during his tenure there.
“What he was able to accomplish at Golden State, I think unfortunately, has not been given its proper due by so many,” contended Van Gundy on Jackson. “He built a program, started it off and unfortunately didn’t get the chance to finish it.
“He interviewed with Minnesota this year, and maybe other places that I’m not aware of. But I just think he chooses not to publicize all the people who have an interest in him,” continued Van Gundy. “Whereas, a lot of people through agents and whatever, choose to be very public about when they are interviewing or whose clients are interviewing. Mark has chosen to be more private in that area.
“I don’t think it should be thought of that there is no interest [in Jackson as a head coach] because anybody who did what he did in Golden State, people are going to be interested in,” said Van Gundy.
Both Van Gundy and Jackson are analysts for the Finals broadcasts on ABC/ESPN. When the MSR asked Jackson his thoughts on why he hasn’t yet been hired by another NBA club, he replied, “I’m having a blast from my end calling NBA games and working for ESPN/ABC and being surrounded by a legendary group of people (Van Gundy, Mike Breen and Doris Burke) who are not only co-workers but more importantly great friends of mine,” said Jackson. He also wondered aloud why Van Gundy hasn’t been hired by a NBA club as well.
“I’m very surprised that he is working his tenth NBA Finals, and it’s not because he didn’t go back to coaching,” said Jackson on Van Gundy. “I’ve been around coaching and I’ve witnessed coaching and this guy is an absolute gem. I’m surprised that watching his body of work, playing for him twice and witnessing him as a coach — in my opinion, [he’s] a genius — and still around and nobody has made a move to hire him, whether he wants it or not.”
The MSR also asked both former coaches on the match-ups expected or unexpected in this year’s Finals.
“I look at the Warriors going small,” responded Jackson. “They were successful last year at times defending Kevin Love with small guys. Will they get away with that? How will they defend Kyrie Irving?
“Andre Iguodala was their best defender that gave them the best chance to defend LeBron James that chess match within the game” he continued. “The matchups [by Cleveland] of not giving the Warriors open shots — whether it’s Klay Thompson or Steph Curry — that can kill you quickly. The matchup of keeping Tristan Thompson off the offensive boards. All of those things will play a huge part.
“I look at not just the matchup team-wise but how do you stop the other team at being so successful at what they have done to put them in position to be on the brink of winning a championship,” stated Jackson.
When a reporter asked the two analysts is there a coaching advantage or disadvantage, as this is Steve Kerr’s second time in the Finals, and Tyronn Lue’s first, Van Gundy replied, “Listen, you don’t get to the Finals if you don’t have supremely talented players, if you don’t have multiple Hall of Fame-type players, and certainly we have that in this series.
“You just don’t get anywhere deep in the playoffs if you don’t have that idea of a super team in that you have multiple great players.”
“It’s important to try to get at least two superstars and surround them with great role players that’s willing to buy in,” added Jackson. “I think that both teams in the Finals have done a very good job of doing just that.
“I think both coaches have done an outstanding job. Both coaches are surrounded by outstanding staff and incredible talent. I don’t see any disadvantage at all, and that’s with respect to Steve Kerr. That’s just giving credit to Tyronn Lue and to the job that he’s done from day one.”
Finally, despite the rematch, both Jackson and Van Gundy commented on the two clubs’ similarities and differences.
“I think the similarities, obviously to me, Golden State still is a great basketball team,” said Jackson. “I think that similar as far as talent is concerned. But the difference is that…they are coming in as champs. Last year they did not come in as champs. That’s a huge difference. That’s a difference in mentality. That’s a team that has gotten it done.”
“I think Cleveland is playing smaller,” added Van Gundy. “Their center position is different [from last year] is that they are starting Thompson, coming back in with [Channing] Frye and [Kevin] Love.”
“The difference with Cleveland, obviously, to me is a new coach. And a huge difference is healthy and whole [players]. I expect it to be incredible finals,” concluded Jackson.
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