Mark A. Jackson: Commentator! Coach? Commissioner???

By Jerald L. Hoover
Updated: July 18, 2007

NEW YORK He’s too good to be just a commentator, so people want him to become a head coach. Well, he’s too good to be just a head coach; so why not just make him the Commissioner.

Yes, I’m talking about who should rightfully replace Mr. David Stern when he decides to hang it up. I’m talking about someone who played the sport, knows the sport, and represents the sport to the fullest extent of what’s good about the sport.

I, Jerald L. Hoover, hereby officially nominate Mr. Mark A. Jackson for Commissioner of the National Basketball Association. And if you think my choice is implausible or that I’m reaching a bit, here’s a smidgen of background that will help make my case.

And when he gets to writing his memoir, you’ll really see how remarkable this man really is. He was supposed to be too slow running north and south.

His leaping ability wasn’t breathtaking — save for that helicopter thingy he used to do if he dunked, (on the way down) — he wouldn’t have made any of SportsCenter’s Top Ten highlights. He was supposed to not be athletic enough.

His jump-shot was supposed to be devoid of form and consistency. He did this witty little fixation with his fingers as he raised his right arm high in the air while he eyeballed the hoop just before shooting free throws.

He lacked the necessary lateral quickness which prohibited him from being a renowned shutdown defender.

But, a funny thing happened to Mark A. Jackson, who was born April Fools Day 1965 in Brooklyn, but raised in Queens — he lasted in the NBA for over 17 seasons.And he did all of this while wearing the (so they say) fateful number 13.

Jackson broke into the League after graduating from Saint Vincent’s College at St. John’s University with a degree in Communication Arts and was selected 18th overall in the 1987 Draft.

That was a trying day for him as he expected to be gone much sooner than that.

But, he won the Rookie of the Year award for that season and was selected (by the coaches) to his first and only All-star game the following year.

During Jackson’s career he played with the New York Knicks, Indiana Pacers, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, Toronto Raptors and the Utah Jazz.

Jackson was such a great teammate that a couple of those teams (Knicks and Pacers) had him back for two tours of duty.

That’s not surprising because Jackson was not just on a team as a fringe member but, as a fixture and as a leader.

With the Knicks he served as future Hall of Famer and one of the 50 greatest players, Patrick Ewing’s table setter and made scoring baskets for him easy as riding a bike.

Jackson also made John Starks’ rookie year much simpler. He along with Charles Oakley, Starks and with the tutelage of legendary head coaches Pat Riley and Rick Pitino (the best coach he’s played for) made the Knicks relevant for the first time in years.

While with the Pacers, Jackson quarterbacked that team that featured another future Hall of Famer, Reggie Miller to some of the most memorable, gut wrenching, intense and still talked about Playoff series verses the Knicks.

He even guided the Pacers to the 1999-00 NBA Finals.

They nonetheless lost to the Kobe and Shaq-led Los Angeles Lakers in six games. Although they lost the series Jackson can boast that he was an integral part of them getting there for the first and only time in their NBA history. The Pacers had won several ABA titles back in the late 60’s and early 70’s.

Jackson, who is wedded to celebrated singer Desiree Coleman-Jackson (his personal favorite singer) to which that union has four children, (three sons and a daughter) finished his illustrious career as the second overall leader in career assists with 10,334, (right behind John Stockton and ahead of the remarkable Earvin “Magic” Johnson).

He was also 10th in career games played with 1,296 and 20th in career steals with 1,608. Again, not at all bad for a guy who purportedly lacked the “physical tools” to be an impact player in a league where speed and athletic prowess ruled.

One thing that Jackson did show the world is that for whatever physical tools he was thought to not have he most certainly made up for it with heart and smarts.

Growing up in the shadows of former Knicks legends Walt “Clyde” Frazier and his idol Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, (who he had the privilege of being seated next to once on a plane; a gesture arranged by his mother who knew how much it would mean to him), Jackson started to understand the little nuances of the game and how it should be played.

In Jackson’s early years he played at Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School in the Fort Greene Section of Brooklyn under Coach Patrick Quigley and was regarded as one of the nations premier point guards.

At 6-foot-3 inches tall, Jackson was able to see over the top of most defenders and with his craftiness was able to deliver what could have been the most basic and routine passes into something of art that resulted in lotss of oooos and ahhhhs from the fans in attendance.

One of Jackson’s nemeses growing up was former NBA player Kenny Smith who played at Ar chbishop Molloy, in Jamaica. Incidentally, Smith is now a commentator for TNT and does several Knicks games during the season while Jackson serves as an ESPN basketball analyst and a commentator for the New Jersey Nets. Smith’s high school team once beat Jackson’s team for the championship and Jackson playfully remarked that he wanted to beat him up.

Because of Jackson’s status, back in the day, while playing summer hoops often “weekend warriors” would challenge him.

Obviously underestimating the fact that he was a PRO and a very good one, he in the end would calmly drop a cool 40 plus on them with no problem.

Jackson who became an ordained minister in 1996 also played a prominent role in the hit basketball movie, “Eddie” starring Whoopi Goldberg also in 1996. Not one to forget where he came from Jackson has been assiduous in various charities that serve underprivileged people.

But, his most cherished one has to be the Goldwater Memorial Hospital Wheelchair charities. Goldwater Memorial is a hospital that helps those that are confined to wheelchairs.

From that philanthropic venture an exhibition basketball game would be held at Madison Square Garden.Those games featured numerous NBA players displaying their talents in a variety of ways that would entertain the thousands in attendance.

These players would take time off in their off season and just before training camps would open just to lend a hand. And when the players got to visit the patients in the hospital, they were usually left with lumps in their throats seeing how much others are suffering. But, for them to commit to something like that was a testimony to Jackson and how much respect he had earned around the League.

Recently, Jackson (when in his playing days used to tie his wedding ban to his sneakers to remind him of his wife) was a finalist for the GM’s job with the Memphis Grizzlies.

If hired he would have been the man counted upon to replace the NBA’s logo, Mr. Jerry West himself. He’s also been rumored to be in line for several head coaching jobs that have come up in the past.

All of this without any experience professionally in either capacity. That again says a lot about how he’s viewed in the sport. Well, with that type of influence Jackson may just want to look into one day succeeding Mr. Stern as the commissioner.

Hey, why not? It’s not like he’s never beaten the odds before in his lifetime.

Thus making him a prime example of what you can do if given the chance.