For Mark Jackson and Doc Rivers, the Coaching Similarities are Only Skin Deep

To be perfectly honest, most people are a little bit superficial in their thought processes. For example, Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers and Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson have more in common than not as far as superficiality is concerned. First, of course, they’re both black (duh!) but thankfully that is not a remarkable thing in the NBA these days. Secondly, they’re both former NBA point guards who were known for their toughness during the rock ‘em, sock ‘em 90s. But their last commonality finds them both in the first round of the 2014 NBA playoffs battling to take two franchises with histories of ineptitude to greater heights. The Los Angeles Clippers and the Golden State Warriors each entered the season with high expectations. Doc Rivers came over from a winning tradition with the Boston Celtics and Mark Jackson stepped out of the broadcasting booth two years ago to lead the Golden State Warriors to a resurgence that many could not foresee despite the plethora of talented young players on their roster. In basketball, coaches normally try to impart their own philosophies on their players to create a strategy gleaned from their own experiences.

As a player, Mark Jackson was a prototype point guard who is among the very best in NBA history at distributing the basketball and is currently ranked fourth all-time among NBA career assist leaders. Meanwhile, Doc Rivers was known as a hard-nosed defender during his career and his heyday was with the Atlanta Hawks, where he assisted on many sensational buckets to the human highlight film, Dominique Wilkins.

Every basketball fan worth his weight in salt is aware that Mark Jackson burst onto the scene as Rookie of the year with the New York Knicks, and initially played for them from 1987 through 1992; but only the Jedi Knights of NBA historians remember that Doc Rivers followed Jackson as the starting point guard was involved in the trade for Jackson and Charles “Snuggly Soft” Smith in 1992.

As is often the case, our attributes are indelibly placed upon everything we touch. The Golden State Warriors features a free flowing offense that is heavy on the transition 3-point basket, early buckets and small lineups. Led by burgeoning star Stephen Curry, the Warriors had a significant low post threat during the regular season with PF David Lee and C Andrew Bogut patrolling the paint. However, with the rib injury suffered by Bogut during the regular season, the Warriors are as reliant on running and gunning as ever. Meanwhile, Doc Rivers has had some difficulty convincing his Los Angeles Clippers squad to buy into his defensively ideology for his entire inaugural season. But the emergence of DeAndre Jordan as a preeminent shot blocker has allowed Clippers perimeter defenders to gamble and harrass perimeter players more often.

With an accomplished floor general like Stephen Curry, Mark Jackson has a more than capable point guard who is the very best shooter at his position in the NBA and is at least a top-five ball handler and passer as well. He is the man who Coach Jackson depends on to relay his instructions to the rest of the team. Doc Rivers has a point guard in Chris Paul who is arguably the best in the league at his position and is every bit as gritty on the court as Rivers was when he was playing. So far in the series between Golden State and Los Angeles, the upstart Warriors jumped out and beat the Los Angeles Clippers about the head and shoulders with a blunt object named Klay Thompson-who scored 22 points on 4-7 three-point shooting in a 109-105 Warriors win. But Doc’s Los Angeles Clippers, powered by a playoff franchise record 35 points from high-rising Kia spokesperson Blake Griffin, dismantled the Warriors in a 138-98 drubbing. Klay Thompson was held to 7 points and Stephen Curry didn’t really start hitting shots until the game was well out of reach.

Without the shot blocking services of Andrew Bogut the Warriors don’t seem overly interested in defending. Coach Jackson needs to put a clamp on that stinkin’ thinkin’ ASAP. As both coaches maneuver their chess pieces on the eve of their Game 3 matchup on Wednesday, their respective philosophies will be on full display once again. Though Mark Jackson’s job is reportedly in jeopardy for some baffling reason that likely involves the ego of team management, the performance of his team in the NBA playoffs against a far more complete team coached by an NBA championship-winning head coach, will go a long way towards his legacy as a coach. But he would do well not to get blown out by 40 points this time around.

Back to top