The first reaction when the word of Mike Brown’s firing comes across the wire is that it was ridiculously early to make that kind of move.
Guy gets a lockout shortened season and five game to prove himself in LA? Five games with Steve Nash injured and Dwight Howard coming off back surgery? Five games?
The second is Brown will make it through, the emotional toll of being fired somewhat offset by the reality that he’ll earn a little more than $10 million not to coach for almost three seasons.
No competitor accepts money in exchange for success, and Brown is a competitor. But it does provide a pillow.
The third reaction is that maybe, as good a man as Mike Brown is – and there are few better in any sport anywhere – perhaps this was just not the right fit.
Brown is in a city that loves glitz and style and offense, and he’s none of the above – aside from all those different pairs of glasses he wears.
Phil Jackson has that zen thing going; Brown is just himself.
Brown was oft-criticized for his offensive coaching prowess in Cleveland – which always seemed odd given he was hired as a straight-up defense-first guy — and he gave LeBron James a ton of freedom to do as he wished in the offense.
With the Lakers in his first season, he had Kobe Bryant and other stars, but got no further in the playoffs than Phil Jackson in his last season.
Brown had to deal with the immaturity of Andrew Bynum, and the unreal expectations that surround the Lakers, the ones that say losing in the West semifinals is not good enough – even though the revered Phil Jackson did the same the year before Brown was hired.
This year, Brown brought in Eddie Jordan to run the Princeton offense, a structured system with a point guard who loves to run and pass and freewheel.
He maintained that offense would help reduce the wear and tear on Nash and Bryant.
The Lakers did not win in preseason, then lost four of five and looked bad doing it.
“Maybe it would have changed a month or three months down the road,” GM Mitch Kupchak told the LA Times, “but with this team we didn’t want to wait three months and then find out it wasn’t going to change.”
Patience and the Lakers are not a good mix.
“I think everyone understands with the Lakers that if you are the coach you are expected to win right away, “Magic Johnson said.
A lot was made that Bryant gave Brown a “death stare” during the loss to Utah, and if that stare was directed at Brown it was pretty obvious he would not win. Jim Buss, the guy who hired Brown, said he believed the stare was not directed at the coach, and Bryant also said it was not directed at Brown. “I’m his biggest supporter,” Bryant said, privately and publicly maintaining Brown could get things fixed.
Bryant also was gracious on a Facebook post: “I’ve seen coaches as well as friends come and go. No matter how many years I’ve been playing, it’s still hard to deal with. I had a good relationship with Mike and I will continue to have one. I wish him and his family nothing but the best. I spoke with him today and thanked him for all of his hard work and sacrifice. I’m not sure what direction we are heading in next. All I can do is focus on the here and now.”
Bryant’s feelings could be interpreted to be personal, and that’s understandable. Because it’s impossible not to like, respect and admire Brown the man. As a coach, things were shaky – and perhaps Johnson’s point on Twitter that Brown was not the right fit in the first place applies.
A defensive coach running a city that loves Showtime … it just sounds odd.
Though it’s also odd that players didn’t like Brown for his long practices, when Pat Riley ran the longest practices in the league back in the day.
It’s true that the only thing worse than making a mistake is not admitting to it, because that compounds the mistake.
In this case, the Lakers thought they made a mistake, and they acted.
“It had nothing to do with the fans or anything else except we just weren’t comfortable the way things were going and we want to win,” Buss said. “Everyone in the room was unanimous it was time for a change.”
Is it fair?
As the team grows and learns and gets healthy, it will get better. Brown will not get the chance to prove he could have been the guy who could make that happen, and he’ll now live with the reality the Cavs did not win a championship with him and James, and the Lakers didn’t believe he could.
The Lakers made a similar move years back with Paul Westhead, and if that hadn’t worked so well they’d be getting ripped more than they are.
For Brown, it’s unfortunate.
For the Lakers, it’s another desperate cast to Montana to lure Phil Jackson back. If not him. They’ll wait for Mike D’Antoni (imagine his defense trying to stop the Thunder in the playoffs).
And Brown will be known as the guy who has won 65 percent of his games, but whose Lakers career didn’t even last 82 regular season games.