SANTA CLARA (AP) — New Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson can learn from 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh when it comes to preparing for a season in short order because of a lockout.
Jackson brought his staff to San Francisco’s practice Wednesday and met with Harbaugh before the NFC West-leading Niners (9-2) took the field gearing up for Sunday’s game against St. Louis. Jackson plans to hit Raiders headquarters Thursday to observe another successful first-year Bay Area coach: Oakland’s Hue Jackson.
In a charcoal gray Warriors pullover, Jackson expressed how eager he is to get started at last. He referenced the “obstacles” he has in common with Harbaugh and Jackson — without using the word lockout. The NBA has restrictions on how much team officials can say even with a tentative deal in place.
“It’s pretty special to begin to prepare for Christmas Day,” Jackson said, referencing the season-opening games. “It’s an exciting time, and I’m thrilled to begin to actually pick the brains of great coaches, and to begin to put our ideas into play, and also to see are we headed in the right direction, are we doing the right things, because here’s obviously a situation where you have a coach that had some of the same obstacles in front of him.”
Harbaugh was hired away in January from nearby Stanford to replace the fired Mike Singletary — and he has transformed the franchise in a matter of months. San Francisco can clinch its first playoff berth and division title since 2002 with a win Sunday against the Rams.
Jackson is owner Joe Lacob’s man to lead the Warriors into the future after the franchise has reached the playoffs in the talented Western Conference just once since 1994 — a run to the second round in 2007.
“It’s no secret he didn’t just talk about changing the culture but the culture has truly changed,” Jackson said of Harbaugh. “It’s inspiring to watch their example, whether it’s the Niners, the Raiders. When people question them, didn’t believe that they’d be relevant, it’s inspiring to watch. Not only can you talk about doing it, but you can go out and do it.”
Jackson sure hopes that’s the case for him, too.
Yet there is plenty of uncertainty ahead as a rookie NBA coach — from his roster to how he will run a shortened training camp in December, when the season typically would already be a month old.
Good thing the Warriors have built quite the experienced group to guide him in the process.
It’s been a hiring frenzy for Lacob, who along with Peter Guber in mid-November celebrated their one-year anniversary owning the franchise.
They named Rick Welts as president and chief operating officer in late September. Hall of Famer Jerry West came aboard last spring to serve in an advisory role for the front office.
In April, Lacob gave general manager Larry Riley a new contract to stay in his current position as GM and executive vice president of basketball operations. Former sports agent Bob Myers was hired as the team’s assistant GM and vice president of basketball operations to serve as Riley’s right-hand man and contract expert.
When Lacob and Guber bought the Warriors for a record $450 million in July 2010 from longtime owner Chris Cohan, they didn’t hesitate to say they expect a perennial contender.
Jackson understands that’s part of the deal. He takes over for Keith Smart, who with a 36-46 record produced 10 more wins last season than the previous year. Yet Lacob acknowledged he wanted his guy — Jackson.
No matter that he had no previous coaching experience. Jackson’s playing resume spoke volumes.
Jackson played 17 years as a point guard in the NBA, for New York, the Clippers, Indiana, Denver, Toronto, Utah and Houston. He won Rookie of the Year honors in 1988 and made the playoffs 14 times. He ranks third on the NBA’s all-time assists list.
He had been working as the lead analyst for ESPN and ABC for their NBA coverage.
Jackson believes he can turn around the Warriors much like Harbaugh and Hue Jackson have done with their teams.
“To me, I really do because I’m not trying to guess what it takes to win,” he said. “I’ve been part of it. I’ve been part of winning situations. I know what it takes to win, and I look at Coach (Harbaugh) out there, he’s not somebody trying to figure out what it takes to be effective. He’s lived and he’s preaching it from experience, and I think it helps when you try to sell that to the players.”
And, Jackson hopes, one day soon Harbaugh will be coming to him to hear what worked to succeed with the NBA players.
“Because he’s going to want to know how we turn things around,” Jackson said, smiling.
(Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.)