Jackson’s Warriors focus on defense during 1st day

(Eds: Updates with details, quotes. With AP Photos.)By JANIE McCAULEYAP Sports Writer

Before Mark Jackson even took the court for his first day leading the Golden State Warriors, he spent a quiet solo moment calling three old coaches.

He left messages for Jeff Van Gundy and Rick Pitino to thank them for their contributions to his career, and spoke to his college coach at St. John’s, Lou Carnesecca.

And Jackson – a preacher on the side – made one more quick call to wife Desiree, asking her to say a prayer for him.

”It was a great time. It was a lot of fun, and it prepared me for the moment,” Jackson said about making those calls. ”Coach Carnesecca said what he’s said for 30 years now, `Make sure my best player does not take the basketball out of bounds.’ He has been consistent with that message. I was glad those (other) two didn’t pick up the phone because I’m an emotional guy and I probably would have wound up tearing up or something. I just wanted to tell those guys, `Thank you.”’

Jackson got going at last Friday, finally taking the reins of the rebuilding Golden State franchise after six months of waiting and working through limitations of the lockout. Everybody will be watching to see how Jackson adjusts to being on the bench as a first-time coach at any level, let alone starting off at the top.

”I put myself in position by studying great coaches that I’ve played for and also by assembling an incredible staff that I trust and I listen to,” Jackson said. ”This is not rocket science. Every team is basically doing the same things, it’s just what you’re preaching and how you’re holding guys accountable.”

He did just that on Day 1. With some lighthearted razzing along the way.

Jackson hollered good-naturedly at guard Monta Ellis after a series of full-court sprints to check up on his star player.

”You all right, Monta?”… ”You sure?”

A few of his players wondered the same thing about their coach when he jumped into a 4-on-4 defensive drill to help out the undermanned Warriors, currently a team of just nine.

”He still has it. I thought at first we were going to wheel him out of here,” forward Dorell Wright said. ”Now we can believe what he’s saying because he’s out there doing it.”

Andris Biedrins got a kick out of seeing the coach take part.

”Monta did really well, so he told Monta, `Get out, Monta, you did so well, just relax, let me do this,”’ Biedrins said of the moment. ”That was pretty awesome.”

Said Ellis: ”I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. He’s just showing it’s going to be different around here.”

That’s for sure. During the closed portion of practice, there was constant noise, clapping and cheers coming from Jackson and his team.

Jackson poked fun at himself, while noting the significance of getting hands-on with the players.

”Some would say I played defense,” he said, chuckling. ”I think it’s very important to let the guys know that we’re in this thing together. I’m not going to be a coach that’s too big or too little to do things. I have a vested interest in accomplishing our goals, and we’re going to do it collectively.”

Jackson shared enthusiastic handshakes with Biedrins – tan and visibly buff after the determined center added 15 pounds of muscle to his 7-foot frame – and David Lee after briefly meeting with each player along the baseline as the first workout wrapped up.

The 46-year-old Jackson was lured away from his TV gig and hired in early June to succeed Keith Smart, who led Golden State to a 10-game improvement in his lone season as a last-minute replacement for career wins leader Don Nelson. New owner Joe Lacob decided he wanted his own guy running the show to revitalize a once-proud organization.

Jackson isn’t backing down one bit from his bold proclamations about turning things around in a hurry. Golden State has reached the playoffs only once since 1994, making a run to the second round in 2007.

”We’re not going to be an excuse team,” Jackson said. ”We’re going to find a way to go get it done. We will be a playoff basketball team.”

When asked about Golden State’s defense in the past, Jackson immediately declared: ”That wasn’t defense. We were a bad defensive team. We will play great defense. We will compete and we will be disciplined. We will have concepts and we will hold guys accountable.”

Jackson met with his players and offered a clear message: This group will play defense and it will do even when short-handed.

”I’m thrilled to get this one under my belt,” Jackson said. ”I’m here. I’m here with a group of guys that I believe in. I’m here with a new ownership team. I’m here with a new management team, and it’s an exciting time. I really am not just hoping, I’m believing, I’m anticipating big things.”

Notes: The Warriors practiced without unsigned rookies Klay Thompson and Jeremy Tyler. … Golden State signed rookie G Charles Jenkins, a second-round draft pick out of Hofstra. He practiced. … The team waived G Jeremy Lin. … Charlie Bell, already facing a one-game suspension without pay after pleading no contest to reckless driving in California, was not with the team. He allegedly showed up intoxicated for a Thursday court date for a drunken driving arrest in Michigan. Jackson said he would let the legal process play out. Bell tweeted this apology: ”Sorry for letting everybody down. No excuses. Will do what it takes to make things right.”