Croshere, Bird think Jackson can thrive on bench

View photos of Mark Jackson's career

Indianapolis (Oct. 13, 2011) -- Austin Croshere played with Mark Jackson and for Larry Bird, which qualifies the former Pacers forward as something of an expert on the subject of how a guy with no previous experience can succeed as an NBA head coach.

And Croshere thinks Jackson will be just fine as he launches his coaching career with the Golden State Warriors, as long as he follows Bird's template.

"Mark Jackson did not have a lot of athleticism," said Croshere in a polite but massive understatement. "He was a great basketball player because he was very smart and he had great vision. Whenever you were on the floor with Mark, he knew how to get the ball to where it needed to be.

"I would not bet against Mark Jackson. He doesn't have the experience, he is going to have to lean on his assistant coaches but I do think he is going to have success. The Western Conference is going to be difficult. They're still a very young team but like Larry Bird -- he came in and acknowledged he didn't have experience and he leaned heavily on his assistants -- Mark is going to have to do that."

The point guard that directed the Pacers to four Eastern Conference finals appearances and one berth in the NBA Finals in a remarkable six-year span, Jackson assembled a strong staff of assistants, beginning with top aide Michael Malone -- son of longtime NBA and former Pacers assistant Brendan Malone. The younger Malone started his coaching career at Providence in 1995, Croshere's junior season with the Friars.

Jackson's other assistants include Pete Myers, who spent 12 seasons with the Bulls; Wes Unseld Jr., who spent the past 13 years with the Wizards; and Jerry DeGregorio, who has coached at various levels all over the map.

With Jackson at the point leading the team and serving as Reggie Miller's alter ego, Bird was a major success in his three-season run on the bench, reaching the conference finals twice and the NBA Finals in his final season. He leaned heavily on assistants Rick Carlisle and Dick Harter, who served as offensive and defensive coordinators, respectively.

"I think Mark's going to be fine," Bird said. "We were very fortunate to have a point guard that knows the game, knows how you're supposed to win games. He did a good job. He went out and got some assistant coaches and he'll give them breathing room and he'll manage the team. He'll coach them but he'll manage them the first year and he'll learn as he goes.

"It's a little tougher than it looks. I was very fortunate to have two great (assistants). I wish Mark nothing but the best because I know this is something he's always wanted to do and he's getting the opportunity. He's got a good supporting group."

Croshere watched Bird evolve as a head coach and expects Jackson to follow the same pattern.

"In his first year, Larry did not do half as much coaching stuff as he did in his third year," Croshere said. "Gradually he felt more and more comfortable as the years progressed."

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