Ezeli: Mark Jackson Made Us Believe

He might not have rings to show for it, but Mark Jackson helped create Golden State's dynasty

Tiki and Tierney
June 08, 2018 - 6:36 pm

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Former Golden State center Festus Ezeli dropped by CBS Sports Radio on Friday to discuss Steve Kerr, the Warriors, and the NBA Finals, among other topics.  

He also discussed Mark Jackson.

Ezeli played for Jackson from 2012-14 and for Kerr from 2014-16. While Kerr has led the Warriors to NBA titles, Jackson played a key role in their development as a team.

“I think the Golden State Warriors have an amazing culture,” Ezeli said on Tiki and Tierney. “It was started by Mark Jackson because he came in and he gave us young guys confidence. I think he gave us the confidence to come out and perform and believe in winning.”

Ezeli met with Golden State before the 2012 NBA Draft, and the Warriors told him they were looking for high-character guys. Talent was important, yes, but so were chemistry and passion.

“I think that was the first step,” Ezeli said. “Mark Jackson, I think he was so instrumental in giving all of us the confidence. My rookie season, we had three rookies starting in the starting lineup – winning games with three rookies and the fourth rookie coming off the bench playing significant minutes in Kent Bazemore. We had Harrison Barnes, Draymond Greene and myself. We were all starting with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson and playing significant minutes. To be honest, we thought we were going to win a championship my rookie year. Playing with Mark Jackson gave us that confidence.”

The Warriors went 47-35 in 2012-13 and 51-31 in 2013-14. It was their best season since 1991-92 (55-27). Nevertheless, Jackson was fired.

And along came Kerr.

“When Steve Kerr came in, I think he instilled a structure in the team,” Ezeli said. “That’s why the offense is so unstoppable. You come out of timeouts, and the plays are incredible. We had really good defense in the Mark Jackson era. It got perfected under Steve Kerr. So I think both of them played their roles in the team’s success. You can’t say you want one without the other one. Steve Kerr is a great manger of people, so he has the team playing at an all-time level with guys accepting their roles.”

Jackson, 53, hasn’t coached since parting ways with Golden State. Tiki Barber doesn’t understand why. Neither does Ezeli.

“To be honest, I think that’s one of the big things I can’t answer myself,” he said. “There are a lot of bad teams who could really use a coach like him, especially young teams. I don’t understand it either. Hopefully the right opportunity comes for him here soon where he can show you guys that he is a great coach and he deserves an opportunity.”