Jackson's Coaching Hopes Mirror Rise During Playing Career
Bobby Jackson doesn’t mince words about his younger playing days. He was, at times, tough to handle in practice and certainly a guy who wouldn’t back down. His competitive edge often got the better of him to the point where he admits he wasn’t reaching his full potential.
He never quite got it to click with the Nuggets or Wolves in his first three seasons. It took another change of scenery to help his career take off.
He got it in 2000 when he moved from Minnesota to Sacramento. There he thrived under then-Kings coach Rick Adelman’s calming presence, a headman who almost unanimously receives feedback as a player’s coach able to find just the right niche. With Adelman, Jackson developed into a coveted and decorated sixth man on a Kings squad annually feared by Western Conference foes.
Along that road, Jackson found he wasn’t just a gifted player but also a leader who hoped to, one day, teach the game and some of the life lessons that come with it to a new generation.
And so there Jackson stood in the LifeTime Fitness Training Center on Monday, surrounded by a slew of reporters who once covered him as a standout Gophers guard leading Minnesota to its first Final Four, looking for another fresh start. After two years in Sacramento as an assistant, Jackson is seeking that same change of scenery to take his coaching career to the next level.
When Wolves President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders called offering to do it here, in Minnesota under Adelman, the fit just seemed right. More than a decade ago, his playing career took off after moving from the Twin Cities to Sacramento. Now, with the geography reversed, he’s hoping his coaching career gets that same boost.
“I’m just thankful and grateful that they gave me an opportunity and thought of me for this position,” Jackson said. “I think it shows how hard I worked and how dedicated I am to the game, because they could’ve gone any way else. Now I just have to work hard and not let anybody down, and prove to everybody what I’m here for.”
He didn’t waste any time. Jackson arrived in Minnesota over the weekend and quickly went to work, putting together individual workouts for a collection of early returners like Chase Budinger, Shabazz Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng and Lorenzo Brown. He set up two-a-day practices to get the ball rolling—something he said even Adelman said was too much, too soon. Adelman, hoping to save his guys’ legs for Training Camp, told him to tone it down to one workout a day.
But that’s what Jackson hopes to bring to Minnesota. He’s got basketball running through his veins, he said, and it’s that competitive fire and work ethic that, when put in the right situation, drove him to become a reliable guard in the league during his 12-year career.
“I’m a workout monster,” Jackson said. “I go hard.”
His goal is to be as adaptive as he can to each player’s needs. He said different guys need different help developing to their fullest potential, and it’s his job to work with each guy to ensure they continue to grow.
When Jackson left Minnesota in 2000 and went to Sacramento, it was the start of a five-year stretch under Adelman in which Jackson became the 2003 Sixth Man of the Year and, teaming with Mike Bibby, gained national recognition for they complemented one another at point guard. Jackson learned under Adelman what he was truly capable of, he said, and used his energy on both ends of the floor to become an impact player.
It might be a decade later, but Jackson said the way to succeed with Adelman still holds true.
“If you can play defense for Rick, like I stressed to the younger guys, that’s what really started our relationship,” Jackson said. “Because I played defense and I changed the game when I got on the court. I knew what my role was, and I accepted that role.”
Now, Adelman is entrusting his younger players with Jackson to try and make that same transition. It’s already beginning with Muhammad—a gifted scorer who will need to earn his minutes on a Wolves squad that became much more balanced at the 2 and 3 spots this offseason. The key to Muhammad earning those minutes?
“He has to understand, he has to play defense,” Jackson said. “If he can play defense, then he’s going to play.”
On the court, Jackson stood out at Williams Arena, and once he found the right situation in Sacramento his NBA career escalated as well. But even when he wasn’t wearing a Gophers or Wolves uniform, he remained popular in the Twin Cities, and he remains close with friends in the area. Over the weekend when he was tired of moving, he watched football at a friend’s place. In a lot of ways, he’s returning to a very familiar place surrounded by a collection of familiar faces.
Once upon a time, Jackson transformed his playing career with Adelman’s help. Now, he’s looking to take the right steps on the coaching side with that same 1,000-win coach leading the way.
Thirteen years later, flipping the switch from Sacramento to Minnesota, we could be seeing history repeated.
“Whoever wants to work and develop and tell me what they need to do, I’m here to do it,” Jackson said. “At the end of the day, it’s about developing these guys.”