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Scalabrine says Mark Jackson didn’t push Warriors’ players hard enough

Aug 6, 2014, 5:21 PM EST

Boston Celtics v Golden State Warriors Getty Images

There are a number of reasons Mark Jackson is not now the coach of the Golden State Warriors. While some of that is on-the-court — management thought the Warriors offense was too vanilla — a lot of it was just a divide of organizational vs. locker room culture and how both Jackson and ownership dealt with that.

But there may have been another basketball issue — did Jackson push his players hard enough?

Former Warriors’ assistant coach Brian Scalabrine — who was demoted to the D-league in the middle of last season and has an ax to grind — said he didn’t think Jackson was demanding enough. Scalabrine, who is returning to the media side of the table in Boston for this season, spoke with the Bay Area News Group about Jackson’s coaching style.

“I think to win in this league you have to drive and push, and I feel like the players will respond to that,” Scalabrine said. “And I think that was the biggest thing about this disappointment in our staff as a staff, right? We could have done more, and we didn’t, and I think he kind of sensed that.

“At the end of the day, to say it was a difference of philosophy, a difference of opinion, I mean, that’s really what it was. And I’m so used to seeing like a Doc Rivers and a Tom Thibodeau (his former coaches), and it kind of threw me for like kind of a loop and a surprise that it was not as hard-pressing as I thought it was going to be.”

Thibodeau is an old-school, grinder coach who works his guys hard, plays them hard and demands accountability each time out. Rivers is different in style, there is no coach in the league who cancels in-season practice more than Rivers (it’s not close), but he does demand a high-level of performance from a veteran team. Rivers has the advantage of having Chris Paul (and Blake Griffin and others) in his locker room to demand that accountability from teammates.

But all great coaches demand a lot of their players. Doesn’t matter the level or the sport, the best coaches set the bar high and challenge/motivate/teach players to reach it. One of Phil Jackson’s great gifts was that he convinced players that where the bar was set or what role they needed to play to get there was their own idea, not his (we all buy into our own ideas faster than those imposed on us).

Jackson certainly worked hard as a player and led teammates to get to that level, but doing it as a coach is a different dynamic.

That said, the players on that team LOVED Jackson and didn’t like how his exit went down (notice there were no “looking forward to working with Steve Kerr” tweets when he was hired). They played hard for him, if not always smart.

Whether Kerr can get that same level of commitment and whether he can push those players harder remains to be seen. But he needs to if he wants to best his predecessor.

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