During Sunday’s Thunder-Rockets game, the ESPN/ABC team working the telecast found a moment to discuss the hottest NBA topic these days: the Lakers mess involving rookie D’Angelo Russell. That prompted analyst Mark Jackson to make a comment that brought a howl from fellow analyst Jeff Van Gundy but may have been confusing to viewers.
“The good news for [Russell] is, he very well one day could be an associated head coach in this league,” Jackson said. “Oh, there we go — shots fired!” exclaimed Van Gundy.
So what was all that about? Well, it almost certainly was jab at Darren Erman, who was an assistant to Jackson when the latter was head coach of the Warriors.
Erman was fired by the Warriors in April 2014 for an unspecified “violation of company policy,” one that ESPN’s Chris Broussard reported had to do with Erman secretly recording conversations between the team’s coaches and players. It was unclear why Erman did that, although many felt that it had something to do with the team’s instability at the time in the wake of another assistant coach, Brian Scalabrine, getting surprisingly reassigned to the D-League.
Russell, of course, was ostracized by his Lakers teammates for secretly taking a video of Nick Young talking about women other than his fiancee, pop star Iggy Azalea. However, while Russell, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft, is thought to have much work ahead of him in terms of repairing his reputation, Erman suffered very little in the way of a career setback.
After leaving Golden State, which went on to fire Jackson and replace him with Steve Kerr, Erman was hired to be the Celtics’ director of scouting. From there, he landed with the Pelicans as an associated head coach to Alvin Gentry, which is what Jackson was referencing on Sunday.
Shortly after Erman was let go by the Warriors, Jackson unloaded on him, telling the NBA’s Sirius XM radio station (via Sports Illustrated), “As far as assistants, you have to pick people who are loyal and dedicated. It’s inexcusable what the second assistant [Erman] did.”
Jackson also added, “Some people are anxious and excited to try to climb all the way to your seat,” and he clearly has not mellowed much in his feelings toward Erman. If he feels that Erman helped get him fired in Golden State, though, then Jackson’s bitterness is understandable, given the Warriors’ immense success under Kerr.