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Mark Jackson 'too blessed to be stressed' about calling NBA Finals with Golden State Warriors

Former Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson, left,

Former Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson, left, smiles before working as an analyst before an NBA game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Warriors in Oakland, California, on Jan. 9, 2015. Photo Credit: AP

There is nothing new about TV networks allowing analysts to work games involving close relatives, including ESPN/ABC when Jeff Van Gundy worked an NBA Finals in 2009 in which his brother Stan was coaching the Orlando Magic.

But there is not much precedent for a situation quite like analyst Mark Jackson finds himself in for this year's NBA Finals, which begin Thursday night with the Golden State Warriors hosting the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Warriors, whom Jackson coached until parting ways with the team after last season, have advanced to the championship round in Steve Kerr's first year in charge.

Jackson was asked on a conference call with reporters Monday about seeming "a little emotional" when the Warriors were awarded the trophy for winning the Western Conference, and about what it has been like calling their games this season.

"To me, people blew out [of proportion] the emotional; a guy came over and said, 'Thank you,'" Jackson said. "If you came to my church, you would say, 'Well, he cries every week.' People say thank you. People show appreciation. I'm an emotional guy. That was all it was. One guy saying thank you and [it was] me appreciating his thoughts and his feelings.

"Other than that, there's no emotion. To me, I'm calling games between two teams, just like the Finals. I read articles that I shouldn't be doing it. To me, it was laughable. I'm absolutely winning and having the time of my life calling games with incredible friends and incredible people and working for an incredible organization. So it's been a blast for me.

"I'm excited about having the opportunity to be part of an incredible group to call a spectacular Finals."

Asked another question about how forthright he has been with the TV audience regarding the Warriors, Jackson continued:

"To me, it's an assignment, and my job is to tell the story. To me, it's easy, and to me, it's what I'm paid to do and what I've dreamed about doing from day one. Sometimes people don't like the stories, but it is what it is. So to me, I absolutely feel like no matter, if I'm calling a game between my brothers or my parents, the facts are the facts. The story dictates itself to me, and I relay the message to the viewers as good as I possibly can.

"That's going to be my job whether it's the Warriors or anybody else. I think the best thing going for guys like Jeff and I is when you look at a Warriors-Houston series, any game that we call, both teams' fan bases think that we're being biased. So you get your people that think I'm against the Warriors, and then you get your people that think, oh, I'm rooting for the Houston Rockets. And I think at the end of the day, that's what you're looking for from people watching the game."

Van Gundy said he can relate based on his experience with Stan in 2009.

"For me, it was extremely challenging because I absolutely wanted the Magic to win," Van Gundy said. "I wanted the shots for the Lakers to roll out. I wanted the shots to go for Orlando. But Mark made a good point. Those were my emotions going in, but the game dictates what you say. You don't make up a story. The game plays out, and you tell what you see despite whatever bias I may have had in that series, wanting Stan's team to win. The game tells itself.

"You know what's interesting too? Mark was talking about how both sides think you want the other team to win sometimes, but you asked an interesting question. I thought: How forthright is somebody? I think a similarly good question is how forthright does the audience want the broadcasters to be? Because when you tell your truth, there's a lot of anger that comes out. Even within -- like I think it's a good question to ask TV people, too. How much truth do they want to be told? How much truth does the league want told? Because the truth isn't just a positive truth. If you're going to tell the truth, you would be telling a lot of positive and some negative."

Regardless of his objectivity, will it be awkward for Jackson to sit courtside watching players he coached so recently now play in the Finals?

"The answer is no," he said. "As a kid, I dreamed of playing in the NBA, I dreamed of coaching in the NBA, and I dreamed of announcing in the NBA, and I've fulfilled each and every one of those roles, and I'm extremely blessed. At the end of the day, I am absolutely winning, and I thank God for the platform that I have.

Jackson coached Golden State for three seasons, posting a career record of 121-109. In his first season (2011-12), the Warriors were 23-43. The team improved to 47-35 the following season and 51-31 in Jackson's final season as coach. The Warriors reached the playoffs in Jackson's last two seasons.

"I've seen people fade to black when they were fired or let go," Jackson said. "I'm fortunate enough to have a job and a topnotch job working with incredible friends that I've known for over 25 years.

"ESPN and ABC have been great to me. So we move on. It's absolutely -- and I'm not exaggerating -- it's easy for me. As I told Jeff, I'm too blessed to be stressed. I'm about to be part of an incredible team calling another NBA Finals. Doesn't get any better."

Jackson said he is not rooting for one team or the other.

"I work for ESPN/ABC," he said. "I'm rooting for a great game, and that's been consistent from the day I signed my name on the dotted line, and that's not going to change."

But what about Van Gundy admitting he was rooting for Stan in 2009?

"If my brother was the coach of one of these teams, I would be rooting for my brother to win; there's no question about it," he said. "Unfortunately, neither one of them have given my brother a job. So I don't have to worry about that."


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