OAKLAND -- Rarely at a loss for words, Mark Jackson paused for a bit Monday because the thoughts in his head and the feelings in his heart had rendered silent his silver tongue. The coach needed a moment.
The man behind the Warriors' surprising postseason success glanced about the walls, peeked at the ceiling of the team's downtown facility. A good 10 seconds ticked by before he swallowed hard and began speaking, his smile cracking just a little and his eyes moistening ever so slightly.
Jackson was trying to speak for his players, trying to explain why they had expressed such annoyance to the news last week that he had finished seventh in the NBA's Coach of the Year voting.
"They feel like that ... and I can only put myself ... I know how I feel when Stephen Curry doesn't become an All-Star and doesn't get the recognition he deserves," Jackson finally said. "And when Jarrett Jack doesn't become Sixth Man of the Year, when Harrison Barnes doesn't get the acknowledgment he should as a rookie doing what he is doing on this level, when Andrew Bogut is questioned, when David Lee is questioned.
"These are my guys. I know how invested they are, and I know what they've sacrificed and poured into this system, this culture."
"So it's personal," Jackson added before ambling away to prepare for the team flight to San Antonio for Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinal series against the Spurs.
The silver was back in his tongue. So, too, was the accuracy.
Jackson's magic -- a fair description of what he and his staff have pulled off this season -- is spun from the relationships he has with his players. In a league defined by its athletes but operated as a business, the ordained minister takes human interaction to a spiritual level with the Warriors.
The team was 23-43 last season, which lost 16 games to labor strife, and traded its most recognizable player, Monta Ellis. Adding four rookies and zero All-Stars to the roster, the Warriors somehow finished 47-35 and are two wins away from advancing to the conference finals for the first time in 37 years.
Asked for an explanation, the players point to Jackson, who spent 17 years in the NBA as a point guard.
Bogut, the 7-foot center acquired from Milwaukee in the Ellis trade, is in his eighth season. Jackson, his fourth coach, is by far the most unusual.
"We're a loose bunch," Bogut said after the Warriors vanquished Denver in the first round of the playoffs. "I think we enjoy being around each other, first and foremost. Coach Jackson, he's a pastor. He preaches. He's a very well-spoken individual. The pep talks before games are sensational. He gets us riled up the right way.
"I've never had a head coach sit down at the lunch table after practice and sit there for hours, talking to different guys. It's unbelievable. For him to come in, it shocked me when I first got here. He's talking for three, four hours to different guys, laughing, joking. He's a great person."
If you ask Jackson, 48, to explain the rapid turnaround, he points to love and to God. Watching ESPN on Monday, he heard one of the talking heads imply that his ability to inspire might work on a team as young as the Warriors but probably would not be as successful with veterans.
"That's not true," Jackson said. "I'm treating them like men. I'm respecting them, talking to them. I get on them. I also show them love.
"Tony Robbins can talk to a 60-year-old man and motivate," the coach added, referring to the high-profile motivational speaker. "But I can't talk to a 10-year vet and motivate him? I'm a God-fearing man. There are flaws in Tony Robbins' message. I can't lose with the stuff I use.
"It is all God. Don't give it to me."
Those who voted for the Coach of the Year surely did not. Shortly after the Warriors ousted Denver from the playoffs, the award went to Nuggets coach George Karl -- one more reason so many Warriors were upset.
"In my opinion," Jack said of Jackson, "he should be Coach of the Year."
Jackson's players were confused or annoyed or outraged, or they simply dismissed a process they concluded is profoundly flawed. I asked the coach if he had any idea why they felt that way. It was a logical question but not easy to answer.
"I think, ultimately, they know how much I love them," Jackson said. "And they know what they mean to me, and how this is bigger than that. That's my only explanation."
The Warriors have had fair excuses to have been booted from the playoffs, legitimate reasons not to have reached the postseason.
Why are they here? The answer is there if you listen to the players talk about the coach and the coach talk about the players.
GAME 5: Warriors at San Antonio, 6:30 p.m. TNT
Rookie forward Harrison Barnes is showing rapid growth during the postseason. Page 2
Warriors have no update available on point guard Stephen Curry's ankle injury. Page 2
Follow the Warriors throughout the playoffs at www.mercurynews.com/warriors
Read Marcus Thompson's "Inside the Warriors" blog at www.ibabuzz.com/warriors