Jackson said he had no doubts about his ability to coach, and that he leaned on Doc Rivers, who made the same transition.
“Doc is a guy I talk to and I have spoken to in the process of me becoming a head coach,” Jackson said. “Not only that, just sitting with him during playoff runs or championship runs, going to dinner, spending time with him.
“I value him. I think he's a great coach. I think he's a heck of a basketball mind and he was very helpful to me during the process. So he's somebody I have a tremendous amount of respect for and I'm thankful. He's a guy who would pick up the phone and say, 'Hey, Mark Jackson's going to be an OK coach,' and I value that.
“I value the fact that he did it by not being an assistant coach. He's a championship coach and he's in the discussion for the best in the business. I do not take for granted how that paved the way and made it easier for someone to give me an opportunity.”
Jackson, who was hired by an ownership group that included former Celtics minority owner Joe Lacob, said he wasn't concerned about his lack of coaching experience.
“I don't care about that, I don't get caught up in it,” he said. “Never meant anything to me. You win in this league with talent, and all I wanted was to have an opportunity. And I said it before, if I never coached a day in my life, I would have died and been extremely happy and satisfied.”
Allen thrives in Memphis
One of the biggest regrets that Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge may have is making the re-signing of Tony Allen a medium priority during the summer of 2010. The Celtics offered Allen a two-year deal with a team option for a third, while the Grizzlies nabbed him with a three-year package that will conclude after this season.
Allen was the Celtics’ best defender, and the club has not had that consistent on-ball defender since him (Avery Bradley has the potential but has to stay healthy). Allen's value to the Celtics was dismissed at times, and he said so when he left for Memphis. The Celtics waited a few weeks into July before getting serious about re-signing him, and they lost him.
“We missed him the day he walked out of the door,” said coach Doc Rivers. “He does what Avery is expected to do now that he's back. He gives his team an identity, a toughness. When Tony Allen's in the building, the other team knows it. Forget the offensive stuff, because he still somehow scores. He just makes things happen.”
When Allen signed with the Grizzlies, general manager Chris Wallace emphasized to him the importance of bringing the knowledge he gleaned in Boston to the younger core in Memphis. The Grizzlies are no longer one of the league's emerging teams. They are considered one of the Western Conference's elite clubs.
“Listen, you're around Kevin [Garnett] and Ray [Allen] and Paul [Pierce] every day and that has to help you,” Rivers said. “That's no coincidence that he left and he's become the leader in a lot of ways.
“[Allen in Memphis and Kendrick Perkins in Oklahoma City], they were around those guys and they saw how we did it. They see the level of professionalism those three guys play with every night and then go to other places and they see their best players and they say, ‘But you're not doing what they did.’ It's an easy message.”
Allen is the Grizzlies' starting shooting guard, assigned primarily to the opposing team's top scorer. He gave Rajon Rondo and Pierce fits defensively last Wednesday and was able to hit the open shot or streak for a layup when the Boston defense shifted to Rudy Gay or Mike Conley.
“When you come in here, you always get the feeling of ‘what ifs?’ or ‘how it used to be,’ the joy, the good times,” Allen said about returning to Boston. “Winning the championship here [in 2008] you always get that feeling coming back.’’
Ray Allen departed after last season, singing similar sentiments.
“I don't know why Ray left,” said Tony Allen. “I ain't worried about why Ray left. But I know he's a Hall of Fame cat, so my hats go off to him and everything he did. He was a great teammate to me. I learned a lot from him and salute him; love him to death like a brother."
The Grizzlies are currently the fifth seed in the Western Conference, hardly overlooked anymore because Allen, Gay, Conley, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol have developed into a title-contending squad after four years of growth.
“The rabbit's out of the hat about the Memphis Grizzlies,” Allen said. “We’re starting to get everybody's A game. And that's what we need in order for us to continue to be talked about as one of the contenders. We have to come in and compete and get these wins. Continued...