Judging by Kobe Bryant’s sudden desire to engage in public feud’s with former players — see the weird and pointless Smush Parker back-and-forth for details — it might not be too long before we hear about Mike Brown’s deficiencies as a head coach. As of this afternoon, that’s former Lakers coach Mike Brown, of course. Like a mafia boss giving someone the kiss of death, Jim Buss’ assurances just a day ago, that Brown was safe, were no more than empty rhetoric.
The Lakers officially flipped the panic switch by firing Brown after just five games — albeit after a dismal 1-4 start to the season, with the only victory coming against the winless, and absolutely atrocious, Detroit Pistons. The four Lakers losses haven’t even been close. They’ve turned the ball over far too much, let opposing teams dominate them on the glass—with a Pau Gasol-Dwight Howard frontline, no less!—and have generally seemed disinterested on defense.
Defense, of course, was supposed to be Mike Brown’s forte, which was probably a large reason why he was fired. The much-criticized Princeton offense, which was actually Bryant’s idea, although not fully utilizing the potential of their team, is not really the issue. Bryant is shooting well over 50% from the field, and over 40% from downtown, while Gasol hasn’t looked terrible on offense either.
The writing was probably on the wall after the recent Jazz defeat—contrary to what Howard and Bryant said to the media post-game. Bryant’s ‘death-stare’, which Brown could probably feel burning through his tailored suit, was surely a strong visual sign that he’d had enough of a coach who, let’s face it, always seemed like a strange fit in Los Angeles.
Let’s not forget, LeBron James got a little sick of Brown in Cleveland, too.
That being said, the timing of Brown’s firing is puzzling. They could’ve given him the boot last year, and brought in a new face who would’ve been better suited to handle the inevitable chemistry issues the Lakers were going to face. Without making too many excuses for Brown, it hasn’t helped that Nash got hurt—Steve Blake is not a starting point-guard—and Howard hasn’t been himself coming off of back surgery. The Lakers are going to turn things around regardless, they’re too good not to, and they likely would’ve turned things around with Brown in charge.
Think back to the rocky moments of another coach of a stacked super-team: Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. It took Spoelstra over a year to get things right in Miami. Remember when the Heat were 9-8 and LeBron James was ‘accidentally’ bumping into Spoelstra while returning to the bench, or when Dwayne Wade looked on the verge of punching him in last season’s Indiana series? Those were rough times, but the Heat stuck with their man. I’m not saying that Mike Brown is the best coach for this team, but the Lakers’ move appears even more rash when compared with the ‘keep put’ approach of Pat Riley and the Heat.
One thing’s for sure, there are plenty of names being thrown about as potential replacements—Mike D’Antoni being one of the favourites because of the Steve Nash Phoenix connection, and the fact that Bryant loved working with him during his Team USA stints. Other potential names included Jerry Sloan, Nate McMillan, and Brian Shaw. Stan Van Gundy, for obvious Dwight Howard-related reasons, won’t be up for consideration—although that would be an amazing hiring for comedic purposes.
The Lakers have made their move. Fairly or unfairly, Mike Brown was the sacrificial lamb, and now they have to go out and perform on the court. They’re running out of excuses.