Professional basketball is a complicated business and Stu Jackson has had a bird's eye view of the craziness for more than a dozen years. Jackson spent 13 years as the Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations, and that role had the following duties, per the NBA: "[I]n charge of all oncourt and international basketball operations, including game rules, conduct, discipline and analytics and also served as chairman of the NBA Competition Committee and on FIBA's Competition Commission and USA Basketball's Board of Directors."
That bit comes from a press release announcing Jackson was stepping down from his post from last July. According to Adrian Wojnarowski, Jackson was interested in getting back on the team-side of basketball operations, a role he held with the Memphis Grizzlies from their inception until 2000.
He also spent his years in Wisconsin with Van Gundy as one of his assistants, so the two know each other extremely well and it comes as no surprise that Jackson is reportedly interviewing for the Pistons GM opening this week.
Since being hired as head coach and president of basketball operations by the Detroit Pistons, Van Gundy has mentioned that he wants to hire people smarter than himself, and find a general manager and executive team that will be fully capable of handling the responsibilities of organization management, player scouting, analytics and more.
In Jackson, the team would certainly have someone fully capable of managing the day-to-day responsibilities of an NBA franchise. He is also presumably someone who has positive working relationships with both the league office and the front office of several teams.
It's harder, however, to look at his tenure as a general manager of the Grizzlies and come away with a solid sense of any skills for drafting, player development or putting together a winning roster. A lot of that has to do with the fact that he was taking over an expansion franchise (he even offered himself up as head coach after parting with the franchise's first hire, Brian Winters).
The then-Vancouver Grizzlies had the bad luck of selecting sixth overall in 1995. The Grizz selected 7-footer "Big Country" Bryant Reeves. Reeves wasn't much of a player, and weight problems and injuries forced him out of the league before he was 28 years old. The Grizzlies had much better luck with their next first-round pick Shareef Abdur-Rahim. Abdur-Rahim was a legitimately good player for several years in Vancouver.
Vancouver was a terrible team for many years, and Jackson and the Grizzlies had first-round picks at Nos. 4, 2, and 2, from 1997-1999. For all those high draft picks the team came away with Antonio Daniels (fellow BGSU alum!), Mike Bibby, and the infamous Steve Francis, which sealed Jackson's fate as a soon-to-be former general manager.
Francis and his handlers were interested in big markets, big endorsements and big stardom. And they made it clear to the Grizzlies that they should not under any circumstances draft Francis at No. 2. Jackson and the Grizzlies did it anyway. Never mind that the stated reasons for wanting out of Vancouver was already a big red flag, and never mind the fact that the lottery featured Baron Davis, Lamar Odom, Richard Hamilton, Andre Miller, Shawn Marion and Jason Terry, all of whom would go on to have more successful careers than Francis. The worst part is that after drafting a player that didn't want to be there and may or may not have refused to play if still on the team at the beginning of the year, the best the Grizzlies could get in a trade was this:
As part of a 3-team trade, the Vancouver Grizzlies traded Lee Mayberry, Makhtar N'Diaye, Rodrick Rhodes and Michael Smith to the Orlando Magic; the Vancouver Grizzlies traded Steve Francis and Tony Massenburg to the Houston Rockets; the Houston Rockets traded Antoine Carr, Michael Dickerson, Othella Harrington, Brent Price and a 2003 1st round draft pick (Marcus Banks was later selected) to the Vancouver Grizzlies; the Orlando Magic traded Don MacLean and a 2001 1st round draft pick (Jason Collins was later selected) to the Houston Rockets; and the Orlando Magic traded a 2002 2nd round draft pick (Matt Barnes was later selected) to the Vancouver Grizzlies.
If you're having trouble following, the Grizzlies traded the No. 2 pick in a stacked draft for Antoine Carr, Michael Dickerson, Othella Harrington, Brent Price and the No. 13 overall pick in 2003 and the No. 45 overall pick in 2002.
It is no surprise that the trade became the final major move Jackson would make as an executive.
With all that said, Jackson would not come in with total autonomy. He would be making sure the trains ran on time and would work through the minutiae and make sure communication was tight. He has important experience at an executive- and league-wide level. And Van Gundy will be hiring more personnel in the coming weeks and months and that includes more people focused specifically on player evaluation and analytics.
Overall poor record as general manager of the Grizzlies. Has been out of the grind of a team front office for past 14 years. A lot has changed, to put it mildly.