Posted November 09, 2012

Firing Brown an easy decision for Lakers

Ben Golliver, Los Angeles Lakers, Mike Brown
Mike Brown

The Lakers parted ways with Mike Brown after a disappointing 1-4 start. (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

By Ben Golliver

Lakers ownership made a swift decision Friday, firing Mike Brown just five games into the season. You can quibble with the timing, perhaps, but this wasn’t a panic move and it didn’t come from nowhere. Yes, it’s always shocking when a coach goes from receiving “100 percent support” from ownership to a pink slip in four days flat. But the evidence to support the quick ax was there; the only thing saving him was perception, and perception doesn’t win basketball games.

The Lakers’ hiring of the bookish Brown drew criticism at the time and he was unable to improve the team in any meaningful way last season. L.A. stalled out exactly where it had the season before, the Western Conference semifinals. Perhaps more important, his players clearly did not hold him in the same esteem as his predecessor, coaching legend Phil Jackson.

The most obvious warning sign last season was Andrew Bynum, who regularly refused to participate in huddles and even took to breaking the offense and throwing up three-pointers. That was child’s play compared to the unmitigated disaster that has been the 2012-13 Lakers season to this point. The Lakers went 0-8 in the preseason and are 1-4 in the regular season. Brown’s team has not jelled and did not look prepared for the regular season. Here was my assessment after the Lakers’ second loss of the regular season:

In this case, Lakers coach Mike Brown deserves the heat that he’s receiving two days, and two losses (10 if you count the preseason), into the 2012-13 season. Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins broke down the handcuffing of point guard Steve Nash during L.A.’s opening night loss to the Mavericks on Tuesday; the problems during a 116-106 loss to the Trail Blazers on Wednesday were more basic, and seemed to point back to Brown. The biggest issues this time: the lack of chemistry, a lack of focus and, often, a lack of effort, especially on the defensive end.

“I think guys are trying,” Nash said. “I think that maybe we just didn’t live up to what our expectations were. Maybe we’re thinking too much or maybe we weren’t switched on enough.”

There’s a base level of disorganization that isn’t usually seen among teams with this much talent. Certainly, Brown’s starters didn’t play much together during the preseason, and it has impacted their timing and collective feel. The Lakers haven’t just been a half-step off here or there, as they claimed Wednesday, they have been downright sloppy. L.A. committed a total of 25 turnovers against the Blazers, sacrificing 28 points in the process. Passes slipped through hands and sailed out of bounds; others were easily intercepted. … It was comically bad at times, at least for outsiders. Kobe Bryant didn’t look particularly pleased, getting a frustration technical foul late as L.A.’s comeback bids proved unsuccessful. Neither did Brown, who stood with his hands on his hips after Bryant chucked up and missed one long attempt.

The ongoing on-court cold war between Bryant and Brown was another warning sign. While Bryant did his best to fight back against criticism of the Lakers and express his support for Brown, he also couldn’t help but mention in recent weeks that Brown lacked championship credentials and the cachet that comes with a ring.

“The critics are more likely to take runs at him [Brown] than they would at Phil Jackson,” Bryant said. “I’ve won, so I can [call for silence]. Mike, it would be a little tougher for him to say that. So I’ll say it for him: Everybody shut up. Let us work.”

The title quip seemed much more reflective of Bryant’s thoughts on his coach than his line Wednesday about being Brown’s “biggest supporter.”

That was not the only star player tension Brown faced. He was also waging an unnecessary war with Nash over offensive style. Brown’s decision to implement a Princeton offense was curious; like his hiring, it drew criticism from the start. Brown pushed back against those critics, a group that included TNT commentator Charles Barkley, by saying Nash would vouch for his approach because it would limit wear and tear on the 38-year-old point guard’s body.

“Steve Nash has said it himself,” Brown asserted. “They can call him if they want, he’s said it himself. He doesn’t feel like he’s as burdened because he doesn’t have to make every play for everybody all the time with what we are trying to do. He can give it up and get it back. He says he’s felt as fresh as he’s ever felt in his career because he doesn’t feel the pressure of making every single play.”

The problem? Nash, a consummate professional who understands better than anyone how much he needs the ball to succeed, didn’t even bother to publicly stand by Brown’s explanation Here’s what he said, per ESPNLA.com.

Asked whether that was indeed the case, Nash said, “It’s not that it wears me out. It’s that I’m not sure right now that should be the focus right now.

“I’m very reluctant to worry about myself. I want to learn, I want to build this team up and then if I need to be more proactive and a bigger part of things, that’ll come. But right now, I want to try to get the offense going, get the guys going, get everyone’s confidence up and we’ll find a happy medium sometime down the road. I’m not worried about myself.”

To recap: Last year’s star center couldn’t be bothered to tune into the coach’s in-game coaching. The franchise player feels he has a better understanding of winning and stands on much more solid ground in the media. The starting point guard doesn’t see eye-to-eye on the offense. Everyone else, save new center Dwight Howard, who is still recuperating from back surgery, is playing careless, half-hearted, losing basketball. Why, again, was this a tough decision?

The real question is whether it was better to fire him now or wait and hope that things turn around. There are plenty of basketball truisms that don’t hold water, but the old adage “Once a locker room goes, it’s gone forever,” is worth taking to heart. A minor winning streak, or a patching-up process, wasn’t likely to resolve the inherent differences between Brown and Nash and Brown and Bryant. Only a total rethinking of Brown’s offensive approach and a change of heart from Bryant, who is set in his ways now more than ever, could have done that. Both of those seem particularly unlikely, if not impossible, and so Brown became the problem.

Problem solved. Now, to find a coach who doesn’t have those particular problems.

15 comments
robert48
robert48

I still remember watching king lebron quit in the playoffs against the Celtics, and the rest of the Cavs following his lead.  That was a clear indicator Brown didn't have what it takes to succeed as an NBA coach.  LA is smart to cut its losses and move on.

OSU
OSU

I saw first hand Brown's inept coaching in Cleveland.  The man can take a race car and turn it into a mini van.  He was a terrible hire from day one.  Best for the Lakers to cut their losses now rather than fool around with this joke another minute.

EarlMartyPrice
EarlMartyPrice

Phil Jackson recommended Brian Shaw, but I think Indiana wouldn't probably let him go. He would have been ideal. Brown should have never been given the Cleveland job as firing Silas at the time was ridiculous, much less the the Laker job. The whole Princeton thing was just plain ego tripping on Brown's part@

FetchHoward
FetchHoward

This guy (Brown) was a failure at Cleveland and he hasn't faired any better @ LA.  Who ever hired him should fire himself first.  The next coaching candidate should look long and hard at the job and think "Am I truly qualified?" cause apparently the last guy wasn't properly vetted.

John4
John4

I like what Charles Barkley said about the Princeton offense while on TV about a week ago.  He said you want lawyers and accountants from Princeton.  You do not want the Princeton offense, and you do not want any Princeton basketball players for that matter.  Classic Barkley.  

John4
John4

And I'm not even a Lakers fan.  Just that I can recognize a stupid decision when I see one.  

John4
John4

This was not the "right call".  This was a terrible call.  The Lakers changed quite a bit in the offseason.  They traded for Howard, losing Bynum in the process.  Also, they picked up the very old and thin Steve Nash.  The team just needed a bit of practice time.  Time to come together.  Does anyone who knows anything about the NBA and Kobe Bryant really think the Lakers would miss the playoffs this year?  (With Brown as Head Coach?  No.)  Clearly the Lakers will make the playoffs, and this move will come back to haunt the Lakers.  Why is everyone so quick to rush to judgement?  The NBA season is 82 games.  So far the Lakers have played all of 5.  They will right the ship, and win plenty of games and will be in the playoffs.  (Every year that home court advantage nonsense is overblown and proven to be a non factor as road teams win lots of opening round playoff games.  The only thing that matters in the Western Conference Playoffs is NOT playing the Thunder until absolutely necessary, which obviously would be the Conference finals).  Anyone with ANY basketball intelligence and knowledge knows that this decision by the Lakers was a poor one.  Also, why will any replacement coach be better?  

ray8
ray8

Firing Brown is not enough, Lakers does not have shooter(S), needs good shooter like Allen or better for the second team, lakers will not win championship no matter how hard Kobe plays.

jsteppling
jsteppling

Well, Jackson has always coached in ideal situations. This isnt. So I doubt he comes back. The problem is that Kupchak didnt build a winning roster. ITs old...OLD....and there is no bench. Nash is almost forty......and Howard is a clown. A big atheltic talented clown, but a clown. Kobe is obsessed. Those two will never get along. I predict this is dwight's only year in LA. My guess is brian shaw is asked to come. Id love to see jerry sloan, but i doubt he'd do it. The problem is the roster. Nobody is going to come in and solve that. Having said all that, Brown was utterly clueless.

m_gdp
m_gdp

ALL coaches will have problems with Bryant, who is the cause of all these issues. When Phil Jackson was there, Bryant had to play according to the coaches wish, but no one else will be able to accomplish that. Bryant is selfish, arrogant and aging; not a good combination for the Lakers.

reDmAn
reDmAn

Kobe wants a coach who will bend over for him and not tell the authorities.

Wisconsin Death Trip
Wisconsin Death Trip

Brown was given 70+ games to get the situation fixed, and it didn't happen. The problem is having an owner like Jerry Jones, but actually ends up winning it all. Hopefully ownership (LOL, funny how they, SI, never mentioned any names of ownership in this article, and for that the article gets an F) will pull it's head out of it's 4th point of contact and get it right this time. Phil Jack or no P.J.

JamesBadham1
JamesBadham1

The Lakers "stalled out" last year (Brown's first) where they had the year before (Jackson's last) because they hadn't brought in anyone new. And Jackson had got all he could out of the team as it was. This team has played exactly one game with all the starters on the floor together. I'd argue that the offense doesn't work for this team (the oft-repeated criticisim that Nash passes the ball and then stands in the corner as opposed to dribbling around and causing havoc on pick and rolls as he should). But hard to really know. They haven't worked together. LA is probably the biggest "want it right now" town ever (well, maybe NY) and this was definitely a panic move. Kupchak didn't want to do it this soon. It's the Busses who blew it up. Please let us not get Mike D'Antoni.

manu081
manu081

You Mr. Golliver deserve to be relieved of your duties for such a pathetic and useless article that wasted 5 mins of my life I'll never get back. Don't report anything if you don't have anything to report damn it !!