Mark Jackson spent some of his most successful playing years in the NBA as a coach on the floor for the best Indiana Pacers teams of the NBA era. On Tuesday night, Jackson will once again be a coach on the floor at the Fieldhouse, except he'll be standing out of bounds while guiding the Golden State Warriors.
Among those great Pacers teams with Jackson, the '97-98 (lost to Bulls in 7) and '99-00 (lost to Lakers in the Finals) stood out in particular as Jax led the team at point guard, not only dishing out assists but also serving as the vocal and spiritual leaders for a veteran team that came sooo close to winning a championship.
As mentioned in the great 30 for 30 documentary "Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. the New York Knicks," Jackson also considered himself a Bundini Brown figure for Reggie Miller, pushing the Pacers' clutch sharpshooter to rise to the biggest of occasions on the court.
Now Jax is getting it done with the Warriors in his second season on the bench. The lockout left little prep time for Jackson's first season and his team in transition finished 20 games below .500 in the 66-game season. This season the turnaround has been impressive as the Dubs arrive at the Fieldhouse 10 games over .500 and in sixth place in the Western Conference.
Even more impressive is how Jackson has managed to change the culture surrounding the Warriors to add a little toughness and improve the defensive mindset and expectations. His team appears to be all in with their coach as they continue to battle through the season despite dealing with a variety of injuries.
I'm glad to know I was wrong about Jackson's success as a coach. When JOB replacements were being tossed around I didn't want the Pacers to take a chance on Jackson jumping from the announcing booth to the sidelines with no experience. As it turns out, Frank Vogel seized his opportunity in the same way Jax has and made any coaching search a moot exercise.
I figured Jax's words would eventually begin to ring hollow among the players, but now he has some deeds to back up his words and by changing a long-standing culture (run, gun, defense optional) proven he can lead a team on the sidelines, just as he did on the court in a Pacers uniform.