Yes, I am completely serious. I watched twitter collectively erupt with hysterical laughter when the news was announced this week that Mike Brown will replace Phil Jackson as the next head coach for the Los Angeles Lakers, and I really don’t understand what’s so funny about that.
What will be funny, in a twisted way for me as a Cleveland sports fan, is watching the third coach we’ve fired over the last couple decades go on to win a championship in that same capacity for another team. Bill Belichick did it for the Patriots a few times, Charlie Manuel’s done so with the Phills, and I expect Mike Brown to do the same thing for the Lakers. He’s not only a good coach, he was the best free agent coach available. And this move will pay off for LA when it matters most, whether he won the press conference or not.
Now I do know that not everybody was laughing specifically at the fact that Mike Brown was the guy the Lakers picked. Most people were, but I do understand that some of the reaction was rooted in shock. Some. Which is totally fair, I was shocked too. No way I thought the Lakers would hire Brown, but that’s not because I didn’t think he was the best coach out there. It simply appeared to me, and most everybody else, that Brian Shaw had tested out of his head coach training program by some measure just as his mentor Phillip was riding off on a motorbike to smoke peyote in the desert for the duration of his zenful existence.
I thought that’s why Shaw didn’t take the Cavs job last summer. I thought he had some quantity of winks and nods stockpiled up indicating that his best move was to sit tight and coach the team his boy Kobe played for. I also thought that if by chance it wasn’t Shaw, it very well could’ve been the guy the Cavs did end up hiring. I wouldn’t have been shocked, or even remotely surprised frankly, to have seen Byron Scott somehow get his contract bought out and make that move to L.A. Assuming the Lakers wanted him. But they didn’t want Byron Scott, and they didn’t want the guy Shaq once called B-Knuckle while wearing a Brian Shaw jersey backwards during a Marv Albert post-game interview either.
They wanted Mike Brown, they went out and got Mike Brown, and they could care less if anybody in the NBA world thinks there’s something comical about that.
Why people laugh at Mike Brown: I’ve watched and studied Mike Brown-coached teams as closely as anybody throughout his tenure in Cleveland, and I’ve always defended Mike Brown. It’s not because I like him or know him either, it’s in part because the “knocks against him” are simply not logical.
People say LeBron James quit on Mike Brown in Game Five of the Celtics series last post-season. That’s false. LeBron James quit on himself. LeBron James didn’t think LeBron James was good enough to lead his team past the Celtics, and so he quit. I think he was good enough, I think he could have, but he didn’t have the heart to try. That’s not Mike Brown’s fault, nor is it a reflection of his “ability to lead men” either.
The other one is that Mike Brown “doesn’t understand offense”. I heard local sports talk radio hosts in Cleveland over the years berate Mike Brown for “calling a bad play” at the end of regulation about six thousand times. Like he told LeBron James to simply go pound the ball at the top of the key for twenty seconds and then hike something up there.
He didn’t force him to run the play they called in the huddle, that I’ll give you, but he certainly suggested they run some type of action involving probably a pass and most likely even a screen somewhere. LeBron didn’t want to do that though, and in today’s NBA – or more specifically the Cleveland Cavaliers situation of a few years ago – if LeBron didn’t want to do something he didn’t have to. Say that’s not how it “should be” if you want, but that’s how it was, and that’s how it is.
Mike Brown picked his battles, and I think he figured LeBron will win more games for me happy than he’ll lose angry because he was forced to run a play he didn’t want to run at the end of a game. I think he figured right too, all things considering, and those “play calls” he’s discredited for aren’t because he doesn’t “understand motion offense”.
Why Mike Brown will succeed: Mike Brown didn’t play in the Association, and he took the Cavaliers job as an unproven Head Coach who wanted NBA players to do something Allen Iverson hated even more than practice: Play Defense. They ended up playing it well for him too. Now he made concessions, but most high profile mangers of people make those same type of deals everyday to increase production.
What was of the utmost importance to Mike Brown was that his teams defended. In Terry Pluto and Brian Windhorst’s book The Franchise, they reference a deal Mike Brown made with LeBron James and Larry Hughes who were complaining about the game plan early on in Mike’s tenure. He told them if they defended, and did everything he asked on that end of the floor, they could run and free-lance offensively.
The result of that negotiation was a starting five consisting of Sasha Pavlovic, Larry Hughes, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas defending their way to the NBA Finals. LeBron was right in a sense, that team stinks, but Mike Brown helped guide them there.
Now while I blame LeBron in part for the offensive struggles, he did buy into what Mike Brown was selling defensively, and that was obviously big. But now, with the goodwill in the bank by way of his coaching record, defensive reputation, coach of the year award, and all that comes with that, Brown won’t have to sell as hard in L.A. Meaning, I don’t see him being forced with having to make a deal like the one he made with Hughes and James, and his teams will improve offensively as a result.
I think he’s earned the respect of NBA players, and they’ll let him install his defensive system because it’s clear that it’s a blueprint for success. In turn, they’ll also let him coach up some offense too. He’ll bring John Kuester in, who won’t leave again to get another head job anywhere for the rest of his career after his stint in Detroit, who thrived as an offensive coordinator under Brown two seasons ago. They’ll be alright on both sides of the ball as a result.
Lastly, the ”pressure of LA” will seem like a gentle breeze over Lake Erie compared to “coaching LeBron while faced with the catastrophe of the fact that he might leave for free agency and the world will collapse if that happens” hanging over his head was like a two thousand pound weight inches away from dropping on his bald dome too.
Brown handled that situation with class, probably better than most coaches would have, and he never said things like LeBron is crying in the locker room right now to the media when he probably was. He’ll put a good front on for the proud tradition that is everything the Lakers stand for, and he won’t let Bynum rip his jersey off and storm around like Rampage Jackson either.
Oh, and Kobe will end up liking him too. That “no comment” was way overblown. What, is his buddy Brian Shaw supposed to read in the paper that Kobe is thrilled he got iced on that job he wanted real bad?
Don’t worry L.A., Mike Brown will be better than alright and he’ll help you hoist that trophy up one time over the next four years. When he does too, everybody who thinks I’m crazy right now owes me a couple sodas next time they see me out at a restaurant.
(photos: upi, getty images)