NEW YORK — Jarrett Jack believes coaching is in his future — even if his playing career is far from over.
“I think me and the game are joined at the hip,” the Brooklyn Nets’ veteran point guard said recently. “One of these days, whenever that day comes, I’m sure I’ll jump at the opportunity.”
For the past two seasons, NBA general managers have voted Jack among the top five active players who will make the best coaches in the future. The 31-year-old has spent a decade in the league, serving as a coach of sorts on the court.
He doesn’t keep a notebook as player-turned-coach Jason Kidd did before being hired by the Nets in 2013-14, but Jack has plenty of ideas and concepts stored in his mind.
“I’ve been around a bunch of different coaches, being able to grab bits and pieces from each of them, and in my mind wanting to apply certain things here and there that could be beneficial to my teammates,” Jack said. “When I’m sitting at home, I think about it constantly, just putting different schemes together, and it’s something that has kind of just come naturally to me.”
Jack says the two coaches who have had the biggest influence on his career were Monty Williams in New Orleans and Mark Jackson in Golden State. It comes as no surprise, then, that he posted a career-best 17.97 Player Efficiency Rating under Williams in 2011-12, then flourished under Jackson the following season, averaging 17.2 points during the playoffs on 50.6 percent shooting.
“Monty and I go way back because we’re from the same place [Washington, D.C.],” Jack said. “And coach Jackson, that was my first time really playing for a guy who played point guard, and he’s kind of cut from the same cloth that I’m cut from, so to speak.”
“When I’m sitting at home, I think about it constantly, just putting different schemes together, and it’s something that has kind of just come naturally to me.”
Both men, Jack says, are very spiritually grounded, which caused him to act differently around them. For example, when Jack was in the presence of Williams and Jackson, he would refrain from using expletives.
“It’s like, out of respect for them and the way they carry themselves, I would never let them see me in a certain light,” he said.
Jackson, who is now an NBA television analyst for ESPN, believes Jack has what it takes to succeed as a coach.
“He has a tremendous knowledge of the game and an incredible passion for it,” Jackson said. “He’s a great leader, he’s willing to listen and he understands what it takes to win.
“He’s been a guy that is not afraid to hold anyone and everybody accountable — including himself. He’s been in every position: He’s won, he’s lost, he’s hit game-winners, he’s missed game-winners. He’s started, he’s been asked to be a backup. I had the time of my life coaching him.”
It didn’t take long for Jackson to find out what type of professional Jack was. With young guns Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson poised to start in the backcourt in 2012-13, Jackson informed Jack, who had started 39 games in 2011-12 for New Orleans, that he would once again be coming off the bench as a reserve. Jack seized the challenge, igniting the second unit in his role as sixth man.
“I told him that his opportunity was going to come, and he needed to stay ready,” Jackson said. “Sure enough, the opportunity came, and to his credit, he was ready and he hit it out of the park. He was a guy that I counted on to close out games, and it was because of his knowledge of the game and his competitive spirit.”
Lionel Hollins, Jack’s current coach, is much more concerned with what he’s going to able to get out of Jack as a player. Last season, Jack’s first season with the Nets, he shot just 26.7 percent from 3-point range and posted a minus-314 plus/minus rating — the worst of any player on a playoff team.
Many wonder if he’ll be able to shoulder the load of being a starter, and the Nets would eventually like to find an upgrade at the position down the road. Still, Jack’s leadership qualities could prove pivotal for a young team with hopes of proving prognosticators wrong.
Unlike Jack, Hollins had no aspirations of being a coach while he was playing.
“I didn’t even think about coaching until I quit playing,” Hollins said. “I went and tried to get another job and I didn’t get hired. Then I went and tried to get yet another job and I didn’t get hired. So I said where else do I go? I know basketball, so I went to university and became a coach.”
Coaching is much different than playing, Hollins cautioned.
“There’s some guys you think might [be able to], and there’s a lot of great players that can’t be good coaches,” Hollins said. “You look at a guy like Jason Kidd [now in Milwaukee] — he fell right in and he hasn’t skipped a beat.
“Did anybody think that was possible when he played? I know when he got hired nobody thought it but the team that hired him [Brooklyn]. So who knows? You could be the smartest player on the court, you could be the greatest leader on the court, and then when you have to sit and watch them lead, it’s totally different.”
The two most difficult parts of the job, Hollins says, are “imposing your will to get them to play the way you envision they should play and getting them to put their agendas aside and play for the team.”
Jack understands making the transition from player to coach is no walk in the park, but he’d definitely like to take on the challenge, whenever the time comes.
“I’m sure it’s much more difficult than I’m probably thinking it is,” Jack said. “Having to prepare practice plans and strategy for games upon games and managing personalities, I’m sure it’s a tougher job than we probably even realize.”
He knows how to build bridges.
“I just try to go out of my way to have a relationship with everybody on my teams. I think it’s necessary. I think if you want to go out there and be a team, those personal relationships go a bit further when you have a rapport with somebody, they’re going to go the extra mile for you. And me being a point guard, I’m always going to be demanding of people for certain things — to be in their certain places, to kind of help coach or quarterback them into a lot of situations, and if this is the first time [a teammate is] hearing your voice, it may not go over as well as it should in those split-second moments that you need to have them done on the court.”