Mark Jackson Returns to Indy
Some remember him as No. 13. Some remember him as simply the Pacers’ dazzling point guard throughout perhaps their best NBA seasons in franchise history. Others remember him for his famed ‘Jackson Jiggle.’
Mark Jackson, in his second season as the Golden State Warriors’ head coach, made his annual visit to the town where he helped create a lot of great memories during his six seasons with the Pacers.
When he was introduced before the game, Jackson received a loud applause from fans throughout Bankers Life Fieldhouse, recognizing their former floor general. He said it’s always special returning to Indianapolis, where he has so many fond memories.
“I was standing this morning, during shootaround in the practice facility, and just took a moment,” Jackson said before losing to his old team 108-97. “There are a lot of memories whether it be Donnie Walsh sitting in the stands at the practice area watching, or Larry Bird sitting over there. Larry Brown, all the great teammates that I’ve had — Reggie Miller and the rest of the bunch. I don’t want to forget anybody but obviously the Davis boys, Derrick McKey, Rik Smits, Jalen Rose, and Chris Mullin. You can go on and on and on. The great memories of winning basketball and these are incredible fans.”
When told that the great Roger Brown, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in September, was going to be honored after the first quarter – ahead of a documentary on his game that will air locally on Feb. 28th – Jackson perked up and was excited. It was obvious that Brown meant a lot to Jackson and his family.
“I will be paying attention because Roger is a guy that I was close to his family, was close to him. Tremendous, tremendous basketball player. Well-deserved as far as the Hall of Fame is concerned, and Pacer-land should be ecstatic about him getting in and recognizing him.”
“I’ll be one of the people standing up acknowledging the impact that he’s had not just in this area but in basketball alone.”
High Praise for the Pacers
Jackson has taken the Warriors to new heights in just two seasons and he, too, has taken notice and been impressed with what the Pacers have done in the opposite conference.
“First of all, they’re extremely well-coached. They’ve done a great job since day one. A lot of talent, but also you can see that that’s a together team. They get after it, they take pride on the defensive end. Paul George is having an outstanding year. George Hill is an underrated point guard. David West is getting his legs back so this is a dangerous team and it’s going to be very interesting come playoff time in the Eastern Conference. They will be in the hunt.”
When it comes to All-Star Paul George, Jackson has a unique connection to the third-year player. In the offseason, his eldest son, Mark Jr., plays pickup ball with George often at a gym in Los Angeles near George’s home. Mark Jr., 21, is playing in his first season at Manhattan College after transferring from the University of Louisville.
Coach Jackson observed George’s game and his work ethic over the summer, so he wasn’t surprised with the giant leap that George has taken.
“I know first-hand because my son would come home from workouts in the summer and there was one guy in gym with him every day. I’d go to pick him up and Paul George would be walking out saying hello. I watched him put the time in and be dedicated and it’s great to see a guy receive the benefit of his hard work.
“Unfortunately, he wasn’t a free agent,” Jackson added.
When I told George of Jackson’s comment after the win, he said it meant a ton because he looks up Jackson.