Mark Jackson's name is brought up annually when it comes time to fill the vacant head coaching positions around the NBA, but this year it feels like the noise is louder. Jackson was reportedly a finalist for the Sacramento Kings job (and the personal favorite of owner Vivek Ranadive) before they passed over him to hire Mike Brown instead. There are several sports media pundits clamoring for Jackson to get the Los Angeles Lakers job. The time may have finally arrived for Jackson to return to the sideline after spending the last eight years in the booth for ESPN.
It is hard to evaluate coaches in general, and especially when they've been out of the game for a while. Jackson should get some credit for helping usher along Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson with Golden State, but the massive leap they took under Steve Kerr immediately suggests Jackson might have been holding them back by the end-- and that's before we dig into the not-so-flattering reports that emerged after he got fired.
Regardless, Jackson is a former player who knows the game and could establish immediate credibility with his resume and rapport with his players. He is obviously out of the running in Sacramento, but there are a few jobs already open and a few more that may become available before the NBA Finals come to an end in June. Where could he end up?
Los Angeles Lakers
This is currently the most obvious landing spot for Jackson. The Lakers have conducted interviews already but seem content to wait it out until the end of the season to see if any marquee names suddenly become available. Jackson is a popular pick right now anyway, with the hope likely being that he's a Tyronn Lue Lite for LeBron James -- a former point guard who knows how to get along with the star players and the acumen to make the little adjustments on the court needed to win big games. Jackson did wear out his welcome with the Warriors eventually, but it took a few years and the most important thing in Los Angeles right now is to keep the superstars happy. If LeBron & Co. sign off on Jackson, he feels like a logical choice. Whether it would pay off or not is a different matter entirely.
The Hornets have the only other open head coaching job right now in the NBA and Jackson might have an in if he's friendly with Michael Jordan. Their playing careers did overlap, even if they never played with each other. Jordan fired James Borrego despite some exciting developments in Charlotte because the defense was very bad for two straight seasons and it appeared that he lost his voice in the locker room. Jackson's years in the NBA would instantly command a particular type of respect reserved for former veterans-turned-coaches, and giving LaMelo Ball a fellow point guard as a mentor isn't the worst idea. Plus, Jackson is a fairly big name and the Hornets are looking to force their way into the national discussion with Ball as the centerpiece. Jackson, if anything, could help them achieve that end.
Quin Snyder hasn't been let go yet by the Jazz but the writing is on the wall. Utah petered out early in the playoffs again, the Donovan Mitchell-Rudy Gobert beef is ongoing, and Snyder seemed unable to get anybody to buy into defense other than Gobert and Royce O'Neal. Snyder is a good coach but sometimes change must be made. Enter Jackson. He's familiar with the team and city after spending a year there near the end of his career. He'd be a fresh voice in a locker room that needs it, regardless of the direction the front office decides to take this offseason.
The obvious issue here is that Jackson's time with Utah as a player did not go well. Numerous reports came out that he tried to unseat franchise legend John Stockton from his starting role, apparently to the point that he was stirring up mutiny in the locker room. Stockton was no spring chicken at that point but neither was Jackson so it didn't look good through any lens. But two decades have passed. If disputes have been put to rest, Jackson makes sense as a fresh perspective to bring in.