Mark Jackson will be working ABC’s telecast of the Suns/Lakers game later today, and Sports Media Watch’s Paul Sen predicts the former St. John’s standout “will spend the two-and-a-half hours stating the obvious, making painfully lame, pithy comments, and taking over the telecast.” With a bit of wishful thinking, Sen opines that Jackson “could easily make a far better coach than analyst.”
Jackson’s name has been mentioned as a slight possibility to fill the inevitable New York Knicks coaching vacancy — ironic, due to the fact that Jackson and current Knicks coach Isiah Thomas have more in common than excellence at the point guard position.
In 1998, Thomas was hired to be the lead analyst for the NBA on NBC. He was paired with Bob Costas in a two-man booth, and was arguably worse in that position than he is now as Knicks head coach. Midway through the season, the Detroit Pistons did the world a favor and fired Doug Collins, allowing NBC to hire him and partially save their lead broadcast team. That year, Costas, Collins and Thomas worked the NBA Finals, and NBC had enough good sense to ‘promote’ Thomas to the studio team the next season. The resulting two-man team of Costas and Collins was one of the best NBC had during its NBA coverage.
The parallel is uncanny. In 2006, ABC named Jackson the lead analyst for its NBA package, pairing him with Mike Breen. During the 2007 NBA Playoffs, the Houston Rockets fired Jeff van Gundy, and ABC added him to the team of Jackson and Breen. So far this season, Breen and Van Gundy have worked in a two-man booth for most games, due to Jackson’s YES Network duties, and those telecasts have been far easier to listen to. In fact, the teams of Breen and Van Gundy and Dan Shulman and Hubie Brown have easily been the best ESPN has had since taking over the NBA in 2002.
With one team already having a coaching vacancy (the medicore one-time contender Chicago Bulls, who fired Scott Skiles yesterday), here is hoping that this Christmas, NBA general managers can give fans a true gift and hire Jackson away from the broadcast booth.
Surely Sen is aware that if Jackson were to relinquish the microphone for the clipboard, YES would struggle to find a suitable straight man for Ian Eagle?