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Sports’ Most Underserved Stat: Likeability

Lack of likeability cost Mark Jackson his job but there’s a lot to like about Steve Kerr and the Golden State Warriors.

Mark Jackson
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Neither two consecutive playoff appearances nor 51-win seasons were enough to spare Mark Jackson from the swoop of the axe. Golden State ownership decided to part ways with the volatile sportshead namely because of his off-putting ways, which may or may not have included barring living legend Jerry West from Warriors’ practices.

In an industry defined by performance, Jackson did enough to secure his place as a longstanding head coach of a NBA team. But, a lack of sports’ most undeserved stat, likeability, did him in.

As Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob puts rather bluntly:

“…look, he did a great job, and I’ll always compliment him in many respects, but you can’t have 200 people in the organization not like you.”

That’s a nuclear level status burn.

Though not on the level of a Ray Rice or an Adrian Peterson, Jackson’s case certainly speaks to the unperturbed rise of general do-goodness, which is inextricably linked to one’s likeability ( it’s hard to like a wife beater no matter how sunny his disposition otherwise), as a market force in sports. With the advent of social media, and just a higher regard for general kindliness in society, those like Jackson are finding it harder to operate in their usual putrid sphere.

Of course, Jackson’s downfall wasn’t entirely to do with his not-so cheery disposition. He happened to be a bad manager too.

More from Lacob:

“Carte blanche. Take my wallet. Do whatever it is to get the best assistants there are in the world. Period. End of story. Don’t want to hear it. And (Jackson’s) answer . . . was, ‘Well, I have the best staff.’ No you don’t. And so with Steve, very, very different.

You can’t have a staff underneath you that isn’t that good. And if you’re going to get better, you’ve got to have really good assistants. You’ve got to have people that can be there to replace you. We all know this from all of our companies. It’s . . . Management 101. A lot of people on the outside couldn’t understand it when we (fired Jackson).”

Steve Kerr, for his part, has not only hired a better supporting cast but appears to be a far more complementary personality for the Dubs. And it’s showing. The Warriors have looked like the NBA’s best team for the past couple of days.

As this Grantland profile of Mike Miller expounds, likeability has a habit of making everyone around it better. Almost like a franchise player would.  Yet, it continues to be undeserved as one ingredient of the detailed recipe required to nab postseason laurels. It looks like that’s slowly changing. Jackson just happened to be one of its first casualties.

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