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Scott Howard-Cooper

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Michael Malone and Mark Jackson
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Assistant leaves L.A. nest for chance to fly in Golden State


Posted Oct 8 2011 8:55PM

OAKLAND, Calif. -- How much Michael Malone got is not known. Contracts for coaches, especially assistant coaches, are not as available as player salaries, and Malone is not detailing the difference between offers from the Warriors and Lakers.

What he got, that Malone will share.

The chance to build something.

The opportunity to bridge his past with his future.

Another opportunity in a seat next to a head-coaching newbie.

And, yes, more money. Malone confirms the gap between what the Lakers offered and the Warriors are paying him to become the lead assistant on Mark Jackson's staff was "a considerable difference." But that is not why he chose the franchise trying to build over the glamour operation that has won two of the last four championships and three of the last four Western Conference crowns.

Malone insists he would have gone to Oakland even if the money had been equal. He says it with a straight face, too. He says it with corroborating evidence.

The Lakers' offer included the chance to reunite with Mike Brown, after the two had worked under the same head coach-assistant coach relationship with the Cavaliers and become close friends. That would have all but guaranteed playoff money, an assurance Golden State could not give. Working with the Lakers -- the star players, the tradition, the greater chance of success times a thousand -- could further enhance the profile of a top lieutenant looking to make it to the No. 1 chair for the first time.

The Warriors had a different pitch: It was this: Come and help the franchise win. For a change.

Woo-hoo!

But it was also come and help Jackson, and that definitely was a lure, and Malone was also sold on the enthusiasm of owner Joe Lacob. The coach was sold on wanting to do something different, as opposed to wanting to be part of the latest staff to get L.A. to the playoffs.

"I know if I would have gone to the Lakers, I still would have had a tremendous amount of responsibility," said Malone, the son of veteran coach Brendan Malone, now a Magic assistant. "(Brown) allows his guys to coach, which I think is great. But the Lakers, they've won championships. They're already up here."

Malone stretched his right arm as far above his head as it would reach.

"What I liked about this, it's a challenge," he said. "But we have the chance to start from the ground up, change the culture, change the identity of this team and build something special.

"Somebody asked me a great question. They said, 'In your 10 years in the NBA, what was the most-rewarding season you ever had?' We won 66 games in Cleveland. We went to the Finals in our second year. We won 61. All of those things. But I really say maybe the most rewarding season was last year in New Orleans. All those years we did it in Cleveland, we were somewhat expected to do that. Last year, we weren't expected to do much. We surpassed everybody's expectations, regular season and into the playoffs."

Choosing between the Lakers and Warriors became the final installment to a summer he calls "surreal." Malone went from being respected around the league but mostly unknown to fans to having a job in New Orleans while two California teams tried to hire him away. Not only that, he moved into the lead pack for the next wave of head coaches.

He had two interviews to become the Warriors head coach before Golden State chose Jackson. But if rookie coach Jackson is threatened by the presence of one of the top contenders for his job, it doesn't show. Malone wouldn't be on the staff without Jackson wanting him there, and the two had talked before about working together if Jackson ever got a job.

This is the continuation of a long-term relationship, not an intrusion. The two go back to when Jackson was a young Knicks guard and Brendan Malone was a New York assistant. Later, when Jackson came back for a second stint in his hometown, Michael Malone was on the staff.

Now they are on the same staff, with Malone helping a rookie coach again. It'll be the third straight time Malone has been on a rookie head coach's staff, starting with Brown in Cleveland and moving to Monty Williams in New Orleans.

So in leaving the glitter of L.A. behind, Malone got a new opportunity, a bigger paycheck and a whole lot more. He got what he wanted.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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