A few days ago, I saw the ESPN headline for the first time: “Brown among Laker head coaching candidates”. I thought to myself: that’s not a bad choice, he may not last for more than a couple of years, but he’s probably the best available coach out there and might be able to squeeze 1 or 2 more rings out of this team. I mean, look what he was able to pull off with Allen Iverson and Dikembe Mutombo back in 2001.
Yeah, Larry Brown would make a fine coach.
Then I clicked on the link. And it wasn’t Larry. It was Mike.
Mike Brown? The same Mike Brown who Lebron apparently ran out of Cleveland? The same Mike Brown that mastered the 1 play offensive playbook? The same Mike Brown that basically saw his team quit on him during the 2010 playoffs vs. the Celtics? Say it ain’t so, Jimmy Buss.
Ok, this was cute – now give the damn decision making back to Mitch. And didn’t some of this stink of “let’s get a coach we can push around a little bit and get to sign to a lowball offer”.
I think Kobe’s “no comment” says it all. How do you think Jim Buss spun this to the (other) Mamba: “so Kobe, we decided to hire the coach Lebron chased out of town, because, well…you deserve the best!”. Lebron did Kobe one better, choosing to replace stone silence with an initial one syllable sound of shock “Wow” after he heard the news. Sorry if I sound like I’m in a state of disbelief, because like Lebron, I actually am.
Listen, there weren’t a huge lineup of great candidates out there. Shaw lacked presence and gravitas. Adelman, while respectable, was a retread. Other interesting candidates were locked into existing contracts? But the Lakers are the glamour franchise of the NBA. This was the best they could do? What about Van Gundy? B-Scott? Or any other coach with the last name Brown?
Optimists will say that Mike Brown is a defensive minded coach whose Cavs teams were among the best in the league. No doubt, the Cavs defense with Lebron was good, but I for one cannot recall them being great. During the 4 full seasons that Mike Brown was coach (2006-2010), the Cavs finished 5th, 13th, 3rd, and 7th in overall defensive efficiency. The Lakers meanwhile finished 24th, 9th, 5th, and 5th.
Another line of thinking goes: Mike Brown can succeed by keeping the entire offense (with assistants) in place which would leave him to focus on just defense. This line of thought is obviously associated to NFL fan who must have confused Mike Brown for Buddy Ryan. Even if that was Brown’s plan (which is very difficult to believe), it is unlikely Jackson’s triangle disciples will stick around long enough to find out.
And then there is the elephant, er, mamba in the room. Any new head coach is going to have to manage Kobe. If Mike Brown thought managing Lebron was tough, Kobe will make coaching the King look like a walk in the park. This is a guy who took heat from Lebron for everything from his substitution patterns in last year’s Chicago series to not playing Big Z (seriously?) How do you think he’s going to handle it the 1st time Kobe refuses to come out of a close game? Or when Kobe criticizes the game plan? We have all heard Mike Brown speak – and I’m not sure the guy can sell ice to eskimos, much less get Kobe to buy into an offensive system that relies predominantly on “pick and pops”. Well, at least the two have gone so far as to “exchange texts”, because nothing says welcome aboard like “c u soon! xoxo kb24”.
So what does this mean for the Lake Show next season? In short, don’t expect much to change during the regular season. This team will most likely loaf, stumble, and streak its way to another 55-58 win season – expect some slight improvement on defense (mostly derived from reminders of the humiliation of this year), along with many clueless moments on offense. The real test is when playoff time comes around once again. Will Mike Brown be able to guide this team and help it retain the poise needed to make another championship run? In my mind, if the last few years of Cavs playoff basketball has been any indicator of future performance, that seems doubtful. Still, we can hope. We still have the best player on the planet (cough), and the most skilled big man (double cough). Don’t forget our all-world “I’m so pleased I’ve completely underutilized my vast talents” 6th man of the year! And Superman’s master plan is still to get out to LA, right?
Or here’s a better idea: Jeannie – how about you and I book the first flight to Montana and beg for Phil to come back?