When Kobe Bryant gives you the death stare, your ticket out of Los Angeles has been written. Such was the case for former Laker coach Mike Brown.
Even though Bryant wrote on his Facebook page that he had a “good relationship” with Mike Brown, the BS meter on that one is going crazy. Magic Johnson said himself that Brown was destined to fail from the beginning.
Feel bad for Coach Mike Brown, who's a great guy, but don't think he was the right guy for the job in the first place.
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) November 9, 2012
Kobe is the king of Los Angeles, as he proved to Jim Buss who many say went against Kobe's wishes with the hiring of Mike Brown in May 2011. The “top-down” managing decisions do not work when you have a five-time champion on your squad.
Age certainly may have been a factor in the failures of this coaching experiment—Bryant is 34 and Mike Brown is 42—because Kobe respects those who, with experience, have made a name for themselves. Phil Jackson and Jerry Sloan are two coaches who can truly get the best out of an older Los Angeles Laker team, and have the respect of Kobe. Magic Johnson threw out another name that would be a perfect fit (but won’t happen): Pat Riley.
Notice the common denominator of all these names? Not only are they household names but they also have histories of basketball success. Mike Brown doesn’t have that. His defensive-mindedness rode the best player in the game (LeBron James) to the 2007 NBA Finals only to get a beatdown by the San Antonio Spurs. A good coach probably would have at least pulled off at least one win.
The most problematic part of Mike Brown was his insistence in running the Princeton offense which depends on “constant motion, passing…and disciplined teamwork” and is “designed for a unit of 5 players who can each pass, shoot and dribble at an above average level.”
Thinking about the Lakers running such an offense is comical. Kobe loves playing one-on-one basketball, disciplined teamwork is difficult for a newly assembled team (Dwight Howard, Steve Nash), and five players that can “pass, shoot and dribble at an above average level”? So many things scream that this won’t work. And it didn’t.
I disagree with the notion that the Lakers management is pushing the panic button so early in the season. This move needs to be looked at through the shrinking window of Kobe and Nash’s playing careers. This is an acknowledgement of a failed choice of coach and a desire to move forward quickly. Not only do Kobe and Nash only have limited time on an NBA court, but Dwight Howard is playing for a contract this year.
It’s hard to put max pressure on the Lakers this year and say championship or bust, but that just might be the case in Los Angeles. And there's no reason to say that should not be doing better.
Moving forward, the Lakers will be better off with virtually anybody besides Mike Brown—as they proved on Friday, beating an improved Warriors team handily with an interim coach. But who should they pick as their new coach?
Well, the obvious choice is Phil Jackson but as Bryant told USA Today, the decision is “really just a matter of health.” And isn’t that the reason that Jackson retired in 2011? Personally, I am surprised that Jackson would even be considered because his decision to retire was based on health reasons. Kobe will certainly do everything he can to get Phil back, but if it comes down to health, the door is not even open.
On the other hand, if Phil says yes, the job is his. In the words of “one person in the organization,” there is a 95 percent chance that Jackson will return as the Lakers coach (per the LA Times).
If that happens, the Triangle offense will be back in some form, Kobe will be happy, and the rest of the league should get ready for yet another Big Three to start plowing their way through the field. The real question then becomes will they be able to follow the Boston model and win in their first year together or will it take more time, like it did in Miami?
Looking at the coaches of the two teams (Doc Rivers and Erik Spoelstra), a Phil Jackson presence could very well be the deciding factor.