Before turning to the hottest topic in the NBA – Who will replace Mike Brown, it’s important to examine what led to his downfall. At BBALLBREAKDOWN, we’ve shown you many of Mike Brown’s short comings dating back to his days coaching the Cleveland Cavaliers. Back then, with an emerging LeBron James, the Cavaliers were the class of a weak Eastern Conference, but even then, there were ominous signs.
In particular, Brown’s offense was, for lack of a better term, a hot steaming mess. It consisted of isolations and weakside players standing around, creating the most difficult shots possible for LeBron and his teammates. It was good enough to overwhelm most teams that had a talent deficit, but in the playoffs, when the defenses got better, the Cavaliers were unable to produce quality shots on a consistent basis. The defense was tenacious, and his reputation as a defensive coach was forged amongst the steel mills of Cleveland. It was a label befitting a coach who cut his teeth assisting Greg Popovich and the Spurs.
At some point, in the spring of 2010, Mike Brown lost the respect of the one guy he most needed to respect him: LeBron. He quickly lost the locker room, and when the head coach can’t communicate with his star, the coach is not long for his job. Even though Cleveland led the Eastern Conference in wins for 2 years, the Cavaliers, in a last ditch attempt to appease LeBron James, fired Mike Brown and brought in a players coach in Byron Scott. Of course, we all know now LeBron had already made his secret deal to jump to Miami and earn a championship with his friends Dwyane and Chris.
Cut to the summer of 2011 and the Lakers hire Mike Brown to coach Kobe Bryant. This was a bit curious in light of his failure in connecting with another superstar, and with the lockout, it put him in a hole right at the outset. The team never gelled, and Brown was able to hide behind the compressed season. Since there was no time to practice, there was no time to fully implement his philosophy.
With a full training camp, albeit with a lot of new faces, Mike Brown threw more fuel to the fire by implementing the Princeton Offense. While I’m all for the Princeton and saw some very encouraging signs early on, Mike Brown didn’t realize he didn’t have that kind of time. In a perfect situation, he could have had 40 games to tweak and mold and let his players get used to each other with the offense. Los Angeles is not that kind of town, and the Lakers are certainly not that kind of team. Dwight Howard could leave after this year, Steve Nash might not hold up this year, Kobe might have one more year after this. Through the first 40 games, at Mike Brown’s pace, they might have won 23 or 24 of them, and he would’ve been doomed then as he was yesterday.
Once the players lost faith in the offense, and there were signs they had either given up hope or were completely lost in it, the defense began to crumble too. Kobe’s death stare in Utah, broadcast for Lakers Nation to see, sealed his fate. While Kobe said all the right things in support of his coach, there is no doubt had he told Lakers management to keep Mike Brown, they would have kept him. Perhaps this is the Dwight Howard effect, considering almost the exact same scenario played out with Diet Pepsi drinking Stan Van Gundy in Orlando.
No team has ever won a championship after switching coaches in midstream. The names have floated out there – coaches like Mike D’Antoni and Jerry Sloan. They are interesting choices that could get this team on the same page and competing at an elite level. However, the one name that floats above all else, like the majestic clouds floating over a gorgeous Montana lake, is none other than former Laker coach Phil Jackson. That said, no NBA coach has ever returned to the same team three times. But if there is a coach out there that can guide this group of star studded players to a title, it’s Phil Jackson.
Don’t miss our live chat from yesterday, where we went over the breaking news with Drew Garrison of SB Nation’s Silver Screen And Roll: